Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Like Mary

Advent started this week. Having just had a baby, I'm especially deep in thought this year about Mary and her place in the Christmas story.

I've already shared with you my birth story, in which I revealed that things didn't go quite as planned in my labor and delivery. My mom wasn't in the room as we had planned. Plus, it hurt like crazy, and I just couldn't imagine that it was supposed to hurt that much (and maybe it wasn't--the placenta was abrupted, after all, and I have nothing to compare it with having never experienced a natural childbirth before). It would have been super-nice to have had the doctor standing there with me telling me what was going on, why it was hurting, what was going to happen next. But it didn't happen that way. This baby was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I felt helpless and scared. I went into a bit of a panic, to be honest. And this was in a hospital, with a RN standing over me and my husband by my side.

But, Mary. We don't get to know a lot about Mary's labor and delivery. This is because the gospels were written by men. If we had a Gospel According to Mary, I feel certain we would have details about Jesus' entry into the world. Men, though. Luke writes "...the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son," as though it was as easy and automatic as taking a breath. He says nothing of her pain, her fear, her embarrassment. I mean, we've got to assume that Joseph had a hand in delivering the baby, and let me remind you that the two still did not "know" each other. If you've never attended a birth, I'll be the first to tell you that it's not a modest event. Talk about a get-to-know-you session for the young couple.

I wonder if Mary was a little (or even a lot) upset with God over the situation. Let's face it, God really asked a lot of the girl (and I say girl because, historically speaking, it's very likely that she was merely a teenager when all this happened). First she has to deal with an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and public ridicule and the possibility of losing Joseph. Then she has to postpone her wedding plans so that she can remain a virgin for the entirety of the pregnancy. Then she has to travel the 70ish miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem during her last trimester, the part of the pregnancy when most of us complain if we have to waddle down the sidewalk to check the mail. When she gets there she doesn't even get to crash in a nice hotel room with a plush bed and room service. No, she's sent to the stable where she can enjoy the pleasant aroma of animal manure and the softness of itchy straw for her bed. At least she can rest after her journey, right? Wrong. Now comes the really hard part. She labors and delivers the precious baby Jesus in an unfamiliar city, many miles from her family and her home. The Baby was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I wonder if she cried out to God in fear or anger or both. Then again, she was no ordinary woman.

Oh, but then. The baby was born, and her labor pains stopped. She got to hold that tiny baby and, if she was anything like me at all, it made all the pain and suffering worth it. She looked at the baby in her arms and saw something beautiful: the face of God. Can you imagine? I know that I can hardly hold my baby without crying just because of the miracle which has taken place in my life. It's almost too much to fathom--a human woman holding the savior of mankind, nursing him at her breast, He as helpless and tiny as my little Nolan.

I'd love to meet Mary. I'd love to ask her how she did what she did. I'd love to ask her how she kept her cool (IF she kept her cool) with all that was required of her (not even ending with the birth of Jesus). I'd love to BE like Mary. Because there are times in my life when I realize that things aren't going as I planned, and I get more than a little irritated with God for changing the plans on me at the last minute. I'd love to be able to say, "This baby is coming, and there's nothing anyone can do about it," with a positive attitude, trusting that God has a plan and is taking care of me and my family. The truth is that I DO believe that, it's just hard to remember in the midst of life's labor pains.

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