Seriously, Mary, Did You Know?*
“…the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn…”
“the time came….and she gave birth…”
Are you kidding me? That’s it. That’s all you’re gonna give me, God? I guess that’s how the Dad tells a birth story.
I have so many questions regarding the details of this birth, my head could explode. I’m a mom; I love a good birth story. The past ten years of my life have been a continual stream of babies, and I never tire of hearing all the details of the glorious day. I want to know about the first contraction and the bickering between husband and wife about whether or not to call the doctor. I find great solidarity in hearing all the crazy things moms say and do when labor pain is all-consuming. I want to know all the details: what time you left for the hospital, how was the drive, and what time did you get there? Could you walk in or was there a wheelchair waiting? On a scale of 1-10, how was your pain level at this point? And please, please, please, tell me all about those first moments when you held your baby to your chest.
You can see why Luke’s account is somewhat disappointing to me. Isn’t he the doctor of the gospel writers? And all he’s going to give me is “the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth.” Grrrrr.
What about Joseph? What was he doing the whole time? Surely he was pretty freaked out. After all, he was a first time dad coaching Mary through labor, and no doubt the watching eyes of horses and cows only added to the absurdity of it all. I wonder if they had a good sense of humor about it. Was there a moment during delivery that Mary made eye contact with a sheep and thought to herself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
As I continue reading in Luke, I am left unsatisfied again by the lack of detail given to Jesus’ childhood, and specifically Mary’s unfathomable journey of raising the Son of God. Although she was given the heads up by the angel, Gabriel, I can’t imagine their brief encounter prepared her for mothering the Savior of the world.
“You will be with child…He will be great…” (Luke 1:31-32)
But Mary, did you know that by “great,” Gabriel meant perfect? A perfect baby, a perfect toddler, a perfect teenager. On the surface this sounds amazing, but how does a sinful mother go about teaching and training the great I AM, especially in a household of fully human siblings? I wonder about the guilt and frustration Mary must have felt when she kept falling short, time and time again, but her little guy kept getting it right. Every. Time.
“…and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:32)
But Mary, did you know he would also be called worse – much, much worse? This title, Son of the Most High, will upset a lot of people, and that sweet little baby you’re holding will grow to be rejected and hated. People will be talking about him behind his back, plotting ways to make him look like a fool. Plotting how to kill him. You’ll have to really control those Mama Bear instincts. It seems you believed in his divinity with such ease, but that won’t be the case for many. Your Jesus, the Son of the Most High, will infuriate the world for generations.
“The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
But Mary, did you know this isn’t going to play out the way you think, the way you hope? You will not see this reign, this kingdom in your lifetime. You will see glimpses, but there will be no throne this time around. You will be confused, wondering when your Jesus will stop turning the other cheek and establish the justice and righteousness Isaiah foretold so many years ago. Words like “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7) will baffle you because you will not see his government nor will peace reign. And just when you think it’s time, just when you think your son is about to unleash his power and take his place as King, he will instead ask you, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4). I imagine that wasn’t the first time he had said that to you. Seriously Mary, from one mother to another, did you want to smack some sense into him? You must have at least rolled your eyes.
After Jesus was born, you and Joseph brought him to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. Upon their arrival, Simeon, “a righteous and devout” man, took the baby in his arms, praising the Lord and declaring,
“‘For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentile
and for glory to you people Israel.’
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Well, yeah. Obviously. Oh Mary, you must have been bursting with pride. My heart puffs up when someone says my baby is cute, but salvation? A light for revelation? I can’t imagine.
But Mary, did you know Simeon’s words would quickly take a turn for the worst.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
Oh Mary. Did you know?
How could you? How could you ever anticipate all that would unfold over the next 33 years.
For years the lack of detail in the Bible led me, perhaps falsely so, to conclude that your faith was unwavering. I never questioned your ability to be the mom to the Savior of World. I never wondered about the details of the birth itself, and I never imagined the frustration of raising a child who came to save the world, but kept wandering around with 12 lowly men instead. I never considered the absurdity of trusting your child to know best, and I never thought about the fear of watching Jesus’ destiny play out.
But Mary, then I became a mom and learned the truth: no woman gets through motherhood without battling the uncertainties of her children’s future. The most godly moms have prayed “Your will be done, Lord…but here are a few suggestions.” The most confident moms fear they are doing it all wrong, surly scaring their children for life. The most gentle moms are ready to body slam anyone who causes their child pain, and even the most faithful moms lie awake some nights wondering how it will all turn out. Will this little one be ok? Will the world be kind? Will the world see the greatness I see?
I’ve got to believe you weren’t much different. But boy oh boy, do I have some questions for you.
Seriously Mary, did you know?
*The title of this piece and the references throughout are attributable to the song “Mary, Did You Know?” written by Mark Lowry, initially performed by Michael English in 1991.
Joy Becker is the mama of three little ones and has recently resigned from a twelve-year career as a literacy coach to become a full time stay-at-home-mom. Her writing has appeared on Mothers Always Write before, as well as on Coffee + Crumbs, Hello Dearest, The Tribe, and Her View From Home. You can peek even further into her life at www.44andoxford.com.