But Do You Know?
I so adore Mary.
In this Advent season, this season of reflection and anticipation, I’ve spent a good amount of time wondering about Mary. There’s that infamous song that asks if Mary knew about her baby boy that everyone (me included) seems to have a love/hate relationship with.
The more I’ve delved into Mary’s character, the more I want to be like her. Think about it: a teenage girl, an angel appearing, pledged to be wed to a man, becoming pregnant through miraculous conception, facing public shame and private scorn, enduring death threats, a trip on the back of a donkey, and to top it all off, giving birth far from home, in the last little area that was available to them.
I don’t know about y’all, but the idea of me personally being pregnant is slightly terrifying to me: the body changes, the responsibility of protecting the growing babe, it all sounds beautiful and nerve-wracking. Top that off with a holy conception, forthcoming humiliation, and uncertainty, and I want to give Mary a standing ovation.
We all have our pre-fab Jesus Christmas stories that have been built into our hearts and minds since we first heard the story, which is perfect for younger ones, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that there is so much more to this wonderful story.
Anyone who has survived teenagerhood can attest to the struggles and emotional turmoil that is the pubescent brain, as my dad calls it. Now, add into the mix that you are pledged to marry an older man, Joseph. Your life is about to change, and you are about to become someone’s spouse.
Then, an angel appears and adds more variables into the mix: you’re pregnant, but not by the way your parents explained. You have no doubt that the angel is real and correct, but you now have to process and explain it all to your parents, and then your fiancée. People are going to think you’re an adultress and a liar, because it just doesn’t make sense to become pregnant without having sex.
With the help of an angel, your fiancée believes you, and chooses not to break off the engagement, but now the hard part truly begins: coming face-to-face with your new reality.
This is my favorite part of the story, and it’s also the part people tend to skip over. I know I did for years.
The usual summarized story skips over the Mary’s everyday life in between the conception and the birth. She has Joseph by her side, Jesus in her womb, and God ever protecting her. But Mary is also human. And humans aren’t perfect.
I think it’s reasonable to assume that Mary had to wake up in the morning, feel her growing belly, and align her heart away from the doubts and lies.
When we tell stories, we often focus on the beginning and the end, and sometimes just glaze over the middle. But that’s the best part. Yes, the beginning gives you your start, gets your going, and foreshadows what is coming ahead. Yes, the end brings everything to a close, answering questions and telling of outcomes.
But it’s the middle—the rising and falling action, the climax—that makes the entire story, like an unassuming hero. Growth happens in the tension, in the rise and fall, in the middle of the story. You grow more in the middle than you do at the beginning, or at the end, because the middle is when things are the hardest.
I want to be like Mary.
An angel gave Mary a life-altering plan, and that’s the beginning of Mary’s story.
Mary gave birth to God in human form, and that’s the ending to Mary’s story.
But in the middle, in the day-to-day, you just know Mary must’ve had tremendous heart growth in those months of her pregnancy. I believe God uses the middle to make the biggest change. This is not to say that God can’t make huge changes in the small things, but more so that we, as flawed humans, usually wait for something big to happen before we are spurred into action. And He knows this.
Whether it be a life-altering event, situation, vision, or plan, it causes us to do some heart-work, taking in and wrestling with the big questions in life. And that flexes both our heart and our strength.
When given a vision or command from God or His angels, I want to know that I handle my middle like Mary, with a quiet strength, gracefully handling humiliation and adversity, warding off lies and doubt.
We are all given something life-altering at different stages in life, and it may not be an immaculate conception, but nevertheless, it’s a way to carry the light of Jesus, bringing hope to a stable or a village.
As the celebration of Jesus’ birth comes upon us, I pray your middle gives your great strength, and your heart muscles get flexed. There’s a purpose for your story, sweet one, and I hope you never forget that.
Merry Christmas to y’all, and to y’all, a good night!