What She Said! Part 2: Terror in Parenting
by Andrea Maher, Guest Writer
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother. Behold this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel. And a sign that will be spoken against. A sword will pierce your own heart that the thoughts of many will be revealed. -Luke 2: 33-35
Yesterday, we got to peer into the life of an ordinary young girl who willingly submitted to an angel’s extraordinary request. Her response: “Be it done according to Thy will.” I often think how much Mary’s life is like our own; full of ups and downs, twists and turns, confusion, and disappointment. Yet through our historical familiarity with her, we sometimes forget to weigh the tremendous pressure she constantly lived under.
As her story progresses, we underestimate the gap between Mary’s acceptance of this divine calling and her fiancé Joseph, believing her story. “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Have you ever stopped to consider what a dark night of the soul that gap had created in her mind and heart? The fear she must have faced at the thought of being abandoned and pregnant? Not to mention the emotional distress of not being believed from a man whom she was about to marry. This would be the beginning of Mary counting the cost. Thankfully, Joseph had his own angelic visitation and their future together would be solidified.
Just when it appears that life is settling into a new normal, circumstances force Joseph and Mary to embark on a 90-mile journey by donkey, where her child of divine visitation would be born in a dank cave with a feeding trough as a bassinette. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable. Certainly, not the surroundings fit for a king. (Certainly, not the conditions any new mother or father could fathom)! These circumstances didn’t fit the picture of anything majestic.
Please do not lose sight of the humanity of Mary in the knowledge of the divinity of her son. Mary had to be perplexed. We are told that Mary was pondering all these things in her heart. The word ‘ponder’ means to deliberate in order to interpret. I’ve pondered a lot in my own life. Those moments when nothing makes sense in my own mind, so I begin to create solutions to force outcomes. And always to my own disappointment as “His ways are not our ways neither are His thoughts our thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, Mary was composing a story that wouldn’t match up – how about you?
So upon Jesus' 40th day to be dedicated in the temple, Mary encounters an aged stranger who is known as a “just and Spirit-filled man.” He immediately begins to prophesy over the child, and I can only imagine that during this encounter Mary’s heart is lifted back to the heavenly. I can hear her uttering in her mind, the angelic visitation is coming to fruition… The affirmation feels good. But then suddenly the man’s countenance changes as he tells her that this child will be despised and rejected and a source of sorrow to her own heart. “so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own heart too.” Luke 2:35
No mother ever looks at her newborn child as a source of sorrow to her heart. No one sees the future as being one of great disappointment and pain—especially not when you are holding in your arms a symbol of hope, a perfect newborn. And yet, perhaps, that is where you sit today as you are reading this. Your situation with your child has caused you distress. You have sat in the hospital ward, the principal’s office, the police station, the front window late at night, or in paralysis in front of a casket and you wonder how life could have turned out this way.
I know. I have walked in every one of those shoes. I have wondered how my firstborn child’s life could have veered so desperately out of control. I have questioned God’s plan and resisted surrender to my circumstances. It has been a long arduous journey.
Ultimately, like Mary, when I couldn’t understand what was in front of me, I stepped back into the knowledge of Who was above me. I forged forward into His Word. I never turned my back on the knowledge that God is real. That God loves me. That He desires intimacy. That often He uses pain to fuel passion and fulfill His purpose. He is with me through every circumstance and that it was in the deepest valleys where I experienced Him most fully. Whatever you are facing in your life, know the power of trust and surrender and watch God guide you in new ways and reveal Himself to you so that, like Job, you can say, “My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.” -Job 42:5
Father, You know me. You know my comings and goings, my faults and mistakes. Help me to know You better, to study Your Word. To lean on Your promises. You desire me to draw close to You and I realize it is the trials in my life that are being used to reveal Yourself to me more intimately. Help me Father as I am weak. Strengthen my heart and soul and allow me to see You in the midst of my everyday life—the good, the bad, and the ugly!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Maher, author of Slammed, Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief is the former editor-in-chief of PARENT ABC's, author of the SlammedHer column, co-author of What's Up With That?, executive director of the Be Still Foundation. Andrea has been married to her husband, John, for 38 years. They are the parents of four sons and enjoy their six grandchildren in Cape May, NJ, where they reside. You can listen to an interview with Andrea, entitled “Slammed” at MARKINC.org.
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