I grew up very Catholic and spent every Sunday of my childhood sitting on a hard church pew watching the Stations of the Cross go by. Through all the years and all the Masses I have had plenty of opportunities to experience Mary. Sometimes I experienced a Mary who looks like this one. Glorified, holy and unlike anyone I could ever relate to or understand. This is the kind of Mary that we would crown with many floral crowns and petition as we ticked off our Rosary beads. Mary, full of grace, mother of God.
Later, after I became a Christian, I saw Mary in a new light. Like so many women in scripture she has become an inspirational teacher to me. As a young mother I began to experience a Mary who looked more like this. A mom. That is someone I can most definitely relate to.
I have always loved the tenderness of Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I can relate to this Mary because in my mind she looks like this.
I can remember being pregnant with our children. I remember counting the months as my body changed and the little one hidden inside me grew and moved. There has never in my life been time when I have felt more expectant or hopeful as I did over those nine months. And as my little ones began to grow and experience life, learn new things, and explore their world I have watched and guided them recording everything they have done, pondering it all in my heart. Imagine if the son that I was loving and parenting was the Son of Man. What kinds of hopes and dreams and fears does a mother ponder in her heart when the one her nation is depending on is in turn dependent on her? Amazing love indeed!
Luke says something similar in Luke 2:51 “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (v. 51). I love how this passage brings me right to the place where this young family is. Feeling anxious about their 12 year old son’s growing independence. Wondering who he would become in a few short years. Pondering his gifting. Experiencing pride over a young man who is honorable and obedient to his parents. I can identify with this Mary too. She looks like this.
A mom who is chasing after her boy hoping that if she catches him she might be able to keep him from growing up, at least for a little while longer. Treasuring every moment of his youth and storing it in her heart before it’s gone.
I’ve read Luke a thousand times. But today as I read through the familiar nativity story I added one more image to my Mary experience. The Mary of Luke 2:4-7 a young, teen age single mom on a long journey. I had my daughter, Jocelyn when I was 17. Despite the fact that it was hardly a virgin birth, I think I can relate. It’s scary having a child before you’re married, especially when it is not well received by those around you (as I’m sure it wasn’t in her time). Yet there is something undeniably exciting and joyful about having a baby despite the difficult circumstance. This Mary, despite her age and inexperience, expertly cares for her new baby wrapping him up in all of her hopes and dreams as she places him in a crowded manager. I can identify with this Mary too. She is me.