(By Christina Gagnon)
Mary has been on my mind a lot these past few weeks, and I’m in awe of how well she comported herself. It’s not every day an angel shows up and tells you you’re going to have a baby and He’s going to be the Son of God. It took a lifetime to watch this message unfold.
“Wait” has been a keyword for me over this past year—and I am not the most patient waiter because I just want to get to the end of the story! I want to know what happens in the end. I want to be there. Then I’ll go back and catch the missing pages of the story. But life is not like that. Moments come sequentially. Only sequentially. Chronologically. Some quickly, running and jumping over each other like a clanging cacophony. Others come slowly, lingering, like that last rich mouthful of hot chocolate. But they always come in the same progression. The first one always comes before the next one and the next one always comes before the last one. I can’t skip moments to return to them later like I do the pages of a book. Even though I try to.
I wonder if Mary tried to skip moments to get to the good part. I wonder sometimes when her old friends were mocking her mercilessly, if she ever thought, “Just you wait and see!” Did she feel vindicated when Joseph finally turned around and decided to marry her after all? When the baby finally did come, did she realize what Simeon meant when he proclaimed the blessing over her baby? Did she ever wonder when she would see the reality of who this chubby, dimpled, cooing bundle of joy really was? Did she realize what that sword through her heart would be? How tender of our Father to warn her of that. Did she feel like she was waiting? Did it feel long to her? Did she ever wish she could skip over the mundane parts of her life like the dishwashing and the endless meals to be prepared and just get to the good parts?
But these are the things of life. (I’m reminding myself of that as I stare at the pile of laundry in my hamper.) Dishes and toilets. Laundry hampers and muddy floors. And somewhere in the middle of all that chaos, the kairos comes. The appointed moment. It’s all too easy to rush past it. It comes quietly and unannounced.
Mary had to wait for her husband. She had to wait until they got to Bethlehem. Wait until the baby was born. Then she waited there for two years. Then she waited in Egypt. Waited for her little boy to go up. Waited for Him to proclaim Himself Messiah. What was it like for her to realize that He was Messiah? When the news came that He had been taken into custody, what emotions welled up in her heart and what thoughts raced through her mind? That sword. Was she one of the five hundred that saw Him after He was raised from the dead? Did she have to wait to see her little boy? Her Son who was not just “all grown up” but also, wonder of wonders, raised up to life again. And then the final waiting, until it was time for her name to be called, for her to take that last final journey, to cross that narrow river until she finally saw Him face-to-face again.
As Bible characters go, Mary’s life is pretty nondescript, aside from one simple phrase:
I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be to me according to His will.
And she waited. She did her regular life. And she watched God’s story unfold about her, sweeping her up into a current that she could never have possibly imagined. Through it all, God was shaping her and preparing her into the woman He wanted her to be, not a woman who lived life in the limelight, although history has made much of her, but a woman who quietly lived the story that was given to her. She embraced it and watched it unfold around her. In her waiting, God was preparing her. Preparing her for the next step. The next moment. The next understanding. The next moment would not have been possible if not for the one before it.
That sword could not have come, if not for the angel. The boy in the temple saying, “I must be about my Father’s business,” would not have been her Son if not for the moment when she said, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord.” Did her mother’s heart swell when she heard the tender concern of her Son for her welfare from His death stake? A lifetime of memories, moments, the good ones and the bad ones, the sacred and the mundane, each built upon the other. Each one necessary before the next one.
Each moment is precious and sacred. Each moment is preparation for something else. Each moment is an opportunity to connect with the Divine. And when moments, even the hard ones, are viewed this way, they don’t seem to be so burdensome or so drawn out after all. Maybe I can slow down and enjoy the moments, this moment, this fleeting gift from God.