Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Blessings that Come with Hardship

I remember the excitement I felt when I first found out I was pregnant. We had tried for over a year to no avail. Then when we went to my mom's for Thanksgiving, she noticed I was exhausted and falling asleep whenever I sat down. She told my sister she thought I was pregnant and my sister called to ask me about it. I didn't think I was, but went to my doctor anyways. He did the blood work and told me he would let me know the results soon. Because we had tried for so long, we were totally blown away when the doctor called to say the test was positive. I was elated and in awe of the life growing inside. I was also overwhelmed because we were preparing to move away from family and friends. I chose to stay home and held my baby a lot, singing to him, reading children's books, and sometimes just chatting with him about life. Once the baby started sleeping more, I realized I had become a more reflective person, pondering both what I read in the Bible and what I heard in sermons.

The first Christmas after our baby was born, I frequently sat across from the Christmas tree, rocking him to sleep, gazing at the lights. I contemplated how differently Mary had found out about her pregnancy. I wondered what it was like for her to be visited by the angel, Gabriel. I wondered what she thought and what she felt when he told her she had found favor with God and would conceive His Son. I wondered how much she comprehended when he told her the baby would be Jesus, the Son of the Most High. I wondered what feelings flooded her soul as she heard God would give her Son the throne of David. And, I wondered if questions ran through her mind when she was told that through Him many would be saved from their sin. I didn't know the answers to all of my questions, but I did know she had quickly embraced what the angel said and understood some of what she was told because she wrote, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call be blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name."

I also reflected on how her birth was markedly different than mine. Mine occurred in a sterile environment, surrounded by my husband, doctor. and nurses. She was alone with Joseph in a sheepfold. I found myself reflecting on the powerful feelings that surged as our son was born and I heard his first cries. I wondered what thoughts ran through her mind and what feelings coursed through her soul as she labored, gave birth, and held the Messiah child for the very first time. I wondered if she, too, had gazed into the eyes of Jesus and counted His fingers and toes like I did when I nursed our son. I knew she, too, had entered a season of reflection, because the Word said she pondered these things in her heart.

When Spring rolled around the first year of our son's life, more thoughts, questions, and fears arose in my reflective heart. As I thought about Jesus and His ministry, I became filled with awe over His powerful teaching, the miracles He performed, the loving way He interacted with hurting people. I was astonished to learn that many of His strong confrontations were aimed at the religious leaders who lead people astray. Yet, as a new mom, my mind often wandered to Mary. Did she fear for Jesus' life? Did she long for Him to walk away from the conflict surrounding Him? Was she ever tempted to go all Mama Bear on those who flung false accusations at her Son like I did a few times? Did she ever feel the need to rush to His defense when she heard the talk surrounding Him and if so, what helped her restrain her tongue? Did she long for Him to let the crowds fiend for themselves and deal with their own hurts and their own sin? Did she struggle with doubt and confusion over the things the Gabriel had told her in light of what was taking place?

In contemplating those things, I sometimes felt uneasy, realizing I could do my best to raise my kids, but there were a lot of things out of my control. There would also come a time when I would no longer be the one protecting my kids from things that go bump in the night, from those who might want to do them harm, from those who would hurl ugly insults at them, from their own mistakes, or from those who would want to lead them away from God's plans for their lives.

As I reflected on the crucifixion of Christ, I was amazed that Mary was standing there gazing at her son, God's Son as He hung on that tree. She was gazing at a face beaten so badly it was not longer recognizable. She was gazing at a Righteous One, whose innocence didn't earn Him freedom. She was gazing at a Prophet who was so bold in His preaching, yet so strangely silent on the cross. She was gazing at a Lamb as the weight of all of our sin was placed on His shoulders. She was gazing at God's Son as He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I wonder how she could bear the breaking of her own heart to stand their watching as the wrath of God for our sin was being poured out on Him. I wonder if she stayed to the end to watch as they took Him down and laid Him to rest. I also wondered what joy flooded her soul as she laid eyes on the Son of Man after He had risen from the grave. How did she make sense of so much sorrow and so much joy to be born in such a short time.

As I think about the role we take in motherhood, I realize for me there was no greater joy and no greater blessing to hear the words, "You are pregnant!" I was blessed to hear them five times and was filled with as much joy the second, third, fourth, and fifth times as I was the first. Mary's story taught me that just as Mary was shown favor by being chosen to be mother of the Son of God, we are chosen to be the mothers of the children God gives us. Her story has also taught me that with that blessing comes the potential for great heartache and great sorrow. To know this is true, all we have to do is to ask the mothers whose babies died before they were birthed, the mothers who birthed beautiful babies with half of their hearts missing, the mothers of children who suffer horribly with cancer and its treatment; the mothers of children laid to rest in coffins smaller than they ever should be, the mothers whose soldiers boarded planes for war zones from which they may never return, the mothers of children who have gone missing, the mothers whose children are lost in drug-filled lifestyles, the mothers whose children have been demoralized by peers, the moms of children who has been assaulted and harmed in ways children shouldn't be, or mothers whose kids struggle hard living in the pain of adult relationships gone awry.

I think there is more to learn about motherhood from Mary. She remained faithful in loving her Son on what had to have been the darkest day of their lives. The events that seemed so hopeless and so bleak were the very events that were needed to accomplish our redemption. Just as Mary could not see everything that was happening from the view she had, we can't see everything happening when we face hardship with our children. Yet, I can't help but believe that maybe her quiet presence helped the Lord in some untold way that day He hung between heaven and earth. Maybe as we come to accept that our blessing, too, will come with hardship and that in the hard God isn't calling us to control it all. That is His job. Maybe He is simply calling us to love big and to choose to stay present just like Mary did. I believe that someday we will more fully understand the hard that came with the blessings God gave us.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!