Last week, I started my 3-part reflection on Mary, the mother of Jesus. This week's post seems like a rerun of posts over the past few months! (Someone is a slow learner here.) And yet, I also know that I need to be faithful to record these as well. Life isn't always one new insight after another. There are times when God camps on one lesson for a long time. As I was reflecting on this week's devotional on Mary this week, I was struck with the insight that life probably wasn't easy for her during her pregnancy. In today's culture, we don't think twice about unwed pregnant teens. From reality shows featuring teen mothers and smiling faces on the covers of People magazine, there is no trace of shame in our society today.
But in Mary's world, an unwed pregnant woman can be stoned to death for fornication. That was probably why Joseph wanted to divorce her quietly. And the women? They probably made all those mean girls of today look like nothing! It is highly likely that Mary had to bear much disgrace, scorn and unfair judgments from others who did not understand.
Sometimes I wonder if she doubted or regretted her decision to follow the Lord. If she knew what was ahead for her over the next 30 years, I wonder if she would have changed her mind. Not only will a sword pierce her Son's side but her own soul as well. (Luke 2:35)
And yet, I have a feeling that if we asked Mary at the end of her life whether she regretted her choice to obey the Lord, she would say an emphatic "No!" After all, she saw shepherds bow down and worship her newborn son (Luke 2:8-20). She heard the blessings of Simeon and the praise of aged Anna (Luke 2:25-38). And wise men with expensive gifts came to their home from a long journey, just to worship this child! (Matt. 2:1-12). Despite the pain she had to endure, she also was able to witness and experience a life with God that none of us would ever imagine. The things that she went through strengthened her faith in ways that nothing else could. She was able to actually see, touch and know her God in a way that those who watch by the wayside cannot.
I am sure she felt lonely at times. The barbs and stings from those who she once counted as friends cannot be ignored. The slights, the head-wagging, the flapping gossipy tongues---I am sure they wounded her soul as surely as any sword would. But Mary still was amazed that God would notice her. She counted herself "blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me." (Luke 1:48, 49)
As I think through this, I am learning (once again) that to follow the Lord does not guarantee freedom from struggle, hardship and pain. In fact, in a world that grows increasingly hostile to Him, it will actually increase. Even when we are doing good things, worthy and important and vital things for the Kingdom of God, I need to expect hardship.
This season is one of those for me right now. I know God has called us to adopt Anah, but unlike Mary, I have not always been so obedient. All I see is the hardship. My focus is on the frustrations. I have hardened my heart to the many beautiful things that Mary would have pondered in her heart and marveled at.
God's message to me through Sarah Clarkson came through these words: "Mary probably spent the rest of her days after the angel's visit working to believe that the God who started all this drama in her life would see it through to a good end. Her faith would be challenged by the sword of doubt, of fear, of struggle. But I like to believe she had the sort of heart that didn't quail. Oh, I'm sure she cried and ached when loss assailed her. But I think she learned to fight, to rise above the darkness, to lift her face in hope and continue to follow after the God whose grace was evident all around her if only she would take the time to see. I think we can do the same." (Journeys of Faithfulness, p. 99)
Lord, teach me how to learn to fight by learning to see. Instead of looking at the hardships, help me to see them as opportunities to develop new habits of faith in these times. I trust that as I do so, slowly but surely, You will open my eyes to see things in a new light. In Jesus' name, Amen.