by Ann Halim ~

She sat in bewilderment, unable to sort through, unable to process, even to speak. She was nearing 50 years of age and life had not been easy for her. Widowed young, she had raised her – and his – brood alone, though some of them were nearly her own age. Her losses were both concrete and intangible…yet this was the most puzzling, the most heart wrenching. To lose a child ripped wide open the tear already in her heart.

It was this man-child that had most changed her life. She smiled through the tears, remembering the wonder of being visited by an angel. What had her existence even meant before that? Really, there were no reference points, though perhaps her engagement had counted for something. The astounding words that had reached her world, “You’ve been chosen, favored one,” ricocheted through her otherwise predictable life, leaving behind pockmarks on her soul. The excitement of the message and the implications of being chosen the mother of Messiah were soon overpowered by the tsunami of the first Great Loss…for all pinnacles rise above a valley.

She’d carefully guarded her purity, holding it close to her heart, as a gift to her beloved fiancée. Now, that gift…it was still there, still as pure as moments before, but somehow the shine was gone. What had she lost? What had she exchanged for the coveted gift of her chosen-ness? Losing the dream of a sanctioned marriage? Accepting the perceived smear on her reputation? Was it a good exchange?

It had been difficult, trying to explain the long trip to visit her cousin. Whispers of scandal preceded her return, yet there was the wonderment surrounding Elizabeth’s affirmation of her chosen-ness. It was truly a God-moment for she had not been in contact with Liz for many months. A godly woman and mentor, Liz spoke over her Spirit-words that evoked a beautiful song from the depths of Mary’s soul. The view was vast from that pinnacle, spanning past ages to the forever-future.

How innocent she had been then, how naïve! That was not a fault, just a result of her simple life and simple faith. That foundation sustained her still, as His death snapped viciously at her belief system. Back then she’d returned home with hope burning in her soul, though still unsure of what to tell Joseph. Passing through a narrow path in the desert rocks, she’d heard a hiss, “Did God really say you would be the mother of the Messiah? Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to think you’ll be a god? I think your mother Eve got into a bit of trouble for such thinking!” The cruel laugh sent shivers down her spine and doubt nibbled at her heels. She pulled her faith tightly about her shoulders and heading into the wind, ran quickly toward the village.

The Great Loss of respect still stung, after 33 years. Joseph, kind Joseph, was broken up over her announcement of the pregnancy. He was, in fact, incredulous. A careful, thorough man, he’d spent much time confirming she was a good girl, someone worthy to be his wife and mother his children. Her reputation before the Big Announcement had been stellar and he was shocked at the new developments. But his kindness still prompted him to try saving face – hers and his. He would not use the punishment that was rightly his to invoke, stoning, but decided to quietly break the engagement. Ah, but God had different plans, the angel announced, and Joseph’s life was transformed.

Mary had always wondered what Joseph thought of their life, if he was honored to be chosen, if he had any regrets during the months following their marriage. They didn’t talk about such things much; men were mysterious creatures and she was so young. But she wondered…and pondered, storing the memories in her heart. Really, there were few others than Elizabeth that she could talk with. The others went on with their lives, yet she felt the coolness and disdain.

It was good that His birth happened far from her village, easier somehow. The physical conditions were harsh, but at least she didn’t have to endure the rejection of her friends and family. How hard it would have been to have no visitors for the wonderful occasion, to feel the shunning from those she most loved. As it was, they had many visitors, strangers perhaps, but believers! She smiled at the irony. God had always taken care of her, preparing a place for her in the wilderness while He protected His Son.

Then there were the quiet years – good ones of companionship with Joseph and her baby. He was an amazing child and she often felt like the student even as she sought to teach Him about His Father. Sometimes she had the sense that He already knew what she was saying, that programmed in His DNA were realities at which she could only guess. So wise one moment, so abandoned the next, she often caught herself staring at Him in amazement. How could He have passed through her body – God as a baby? The Creator of the universe reduced to a creation! Did it diminish Him – or elevate all of creation? So many questions and new ideas, but – it was time to fix dinner and feed the cows. Life was so exalted, then so banal, she mused wryly.

Losing Him those three days when He was twelve – what agony they had endured! Her faith was sorely tested. She blamed herself, then Joseph, then Him. Had they failed? Were they careless? Was He willful? For many years it was a prickly memory, but now she began to see the design. If only she’d known then that all of life is interconnected, that one experience adumbrates another. It gave her hope, during this pause after Fateful Friday. Had He not said something about three days? He’d been lost to her those three days in the temple, yet protected by the Father. Perhaps that was true now, as well. The Father’s design was flawless, unhindered by chance. Hope nibbled at her heart.

He had learned Joseph’s trade, though she always felt He was building with more than wood. As the years passed after they returned home, healing came. Joseph’s resolute acceptance of her child and her assumption of the stepmother role to his, began to break down the walls of prejudice against their family. Icy barriers melted and life took on a more normal feel, partly perhaps, because they were just so busy doing the maintenance of life. But she still had moments of pause, when she wondered, what will the life of the Messiah look like? The memory of old Simeon’s prophecy and Anna’s joy often rose to the surface of consciousness during these musings. “This child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But He will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

She was just a simple woman with a mother-heart. She didn’t like to think about rejection, though God knew she had endured a lot of it. Her losses multiplied exponentially when Joseph died. He was her rock during the times of faith-questioning. He’d been there, he’d heard the angel, he’d walked the road with her. Then he was gone and she was alone with the memories of those amazing moments. She often wished she could find the shepherds and talk with them again. And those Eastern men…how she longed for a way to communicate with them – perhaps they’d know from their star study what was going to happen next! But the wind had long ago blown dust over those footsteps and she felt alone in her brooding.

A sharp ring of metal on metal snapped her back to reality. Of course she wasn’t alone…He knew, He was there…and He was still here. She clutched her faith closer and stirred the fire.

When she heard that cousin John was nearby she’d been overjoyed. He was another link in her faith journey. The Spirit-conception of her Son trailed by several months the miracle-conception of John. Zacharias and Elizabeth were old – way too old to birth a child. Yet, like Abraham and Sarah, it happened and now John was being called the ‘voice in the wilderness’ referred to by Isaiah. She wished she’d been there for the baptism; it would have been lovely to see the dove. Perhaps it would have bolstered her for the days following when she didn’t hear from Him or know where He was. Rumor had it that He’d just walked away into the desert. Remembering the hissing voice she’d encountered on her journey from Elizabeth’s, she shuddered and was glad that He had the dove-affirmation. Later, when He told her about the accusations of who His father was – “IF you are the Son of God” – she was so angry. He had faced those allegations all His life; her heart broke as she realized again her utter inability to shield Him from the rawness of terrestrial life. Her thoughts raged, ‘Don’t they know? He doesn’t even belong here! He gave up more than we can ever even imagine and all you can come up with are questions about His conception. Grow up, for pity’s sake!’ The sword nicked her soul.

They were a motley crew – those twelve. She sometimes wondered why He’d chosen them…then chuckled. God always seemed to choose the most unlikely people! She enjoyed watching them soak up His presence and it was a good day when she could follow the crowd, sitting on the edge – or in the middle – and listen to Him teach. Sometimes she heard her voice coming out His mouth and it made her happy to know she had a part in this grand design. After all the rejection of both of their lives, it was refreshing to see the masses hanging onto His words. And the miracles! Her faith grew by leaps and bounds as she watched healings and demon-dismissals.

Her relationship with His Father was also growing. God was portrayed in her religion as a somewhat detached deity; all the blood and sacrifices jolted on her tender spirit. Yet, as she bathed the skin of His Son, it began to dawn on her that He was more like her than she’d thought. She wondered at God’s image in her – what was it? If she was the mother of His Son, then He was her husband! That made her feel shy and it took a long time to grasp the reality that she could live naked before Him. As she began to bare her soul and face Him authentically, He began to reveal Himself to her. He welcomed her into His presence and told her He longed for her attention. What a strange God, she thought, not so much like the idea she’d carried for too long. As she warmed to the idea, she realized that if her Son was like His Father, maybe she could know this mysterious God. Maybe He was not so different from her. She surrendered herself into a submissive relationship with Him.

She first heard about, then met the women who hung out with Him. Many of them she liked immediately and they became fast friends. They loved to hear the stories of His birth and childhood. Some even believed Him to be the Messiah and treated her with deference and respect. It was a new paradigm, but felt good and helped relieve the sting of many of her memories. However, there was one woman that she worried about, one with a really bad reputation. Like all mothers through the ages, she didn’t want her Son’s reputation tarnished by association with a prostitute – and one with demons besides! She was appalled that Jesus would enter into such a close friendship with her. Later, learning they shared the same – though common – name, she felt a twinge of…was it jealousy? Of course somewhere in her psyche, she knew He should have friends, even female friends, His own age, but this didn’t feel right. She made a mental note to talk to Him about this MaryM.

Before that conversation took place, though, she heard a little story about Mary’s family. Something about a controlling, type-A sister, a much-loved brother and MaryM. – who was absolutely crazy about Jesus. Because He was her Redeemer in a very tangible way, she wandered around after Him and sat, starry-eyed, at His feet. Jesus adored her as well, and affirmed her devotion in front of a large crowd of men, many of whom had used and abused her.

As it turned out, MaryM was one of the few who really took it seriously when Jesus spoke of dying. She spent her family’s life savings on an extravagant bottle of fragrance. Perhaps she intended to use it to embalm His body after His death, but for some unknown reason she had it with her at Simon the Leper’s party. As if in fulfillment of one of David’s psalms (133) invoking the good and pleasant reality of living in unity, she poured the precious ointment on His head and it ran down even to the skirts of His garments, mingling with her tears as she wiped it with her hair. “As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” His mother started as she realized for the first time in her musing, that He HAD promised life forevermore, but only after He was lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, then whoever believeth in Him would not perish but have eternal life.

The past days were a blur in her memory…it was hard to remember what happened after the perfume incident. She could not, however, forget what happened before the anointing. MaryM’s brother became sick and died rather suddenly, though not before Jesus had been summoned by the family. The sisters were so hopeful that Jesus would bring healing to their brother, but their hope turned to bitterness when Lazarus died and Jesus had not arrived. In fact, several days passed with no word from Him and when He finally showed up with His usual entourage, it was hard for the girls not to feel a little resentful. They just knew Lazarus wouldn’t have died if He’d only come sooner and they told Him so. Healing a sick person ranks high on the supernatural scale and deals defeat to the powers of darkness, but giving life to someone whose decaying body is already stinking – well, that was absolutely awe-inspiring, yet it catapulted Jesus into a series of events that led directly to His own death.

Sitting in silence, her soul chilled at the memory of seeing her Miracle Child succumb to the fate that she and Joseph had run from those many years before when they escaped to Egypt after His birth. The long fingers of evil hatred had finally grasped their Prize, thinking that death would silence the Voice, the Promise. Would it? she wondered. What happens when Deity dies? What could it mean? She shivered at her memories. How much she had lost! How much she had given up! The sword pierced its target, blood drops mingled with those from His brow, her tears coalescing in a river that threatened to drown her soul. Her faith wavered not, however. She knew that even the grave could not contain His Deity. He had proclaimed at Lazarus’ tomb that HE was the Resurrection and the Life. Life cannot coexist with death. He had overcome every obstacle up to this point and she knew He would overcome this as well.

She was startled by a flurry on the stairs and a sharp knock on the door. Fear tried to gain entrance, but Belief opened the door. MaryM stood breathless, her eyes wide and starry as ever. Her story seemed preposterous to most gathered there, but His mother felt hope rise. A garden, where it all started, was the setting for the fruition of the Plan. The Promise fulfilled and finished, He’d rested, then awoke to redeem their – her – losses. They paled, these losses, with what He’d surrendered. Never faltering, never losing focus, He had accomplished it all, with only the help of His Father.

Mary breathed in the fragrance as she melted in His embrace. It was so familiar, yet so other-worldly. She knew again that He had merely passed through her, that she had a part to play, a piece to fulfill. The words of Simeon echoed her heart-cry, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

His light shone – and would always shine in salvation – for her, and for all her children – until they were finally united in God’s family.

What hope, what salvation, what a God!

(Inspired by and dedicated to my friend, Sharon, who has suffered arduous losses, yet not lost her faith.   –Ann)