Active Faith

Mary, Did You Really Know?

"It’s easy to forget you were just like me, flesh and blood, tears and laughter, fears and insecurities.” by DJ Hejtmanek

Your exalted story plays like a lovely loop in the background of my life, complete with music, lights and a little chaos. I feel I know you better with each pass. But one Christmas Day boosted that link. We both gave birth on the same day. Well, yours was probably a different day, they say, but I had my first child on the day we celebrate, Christmas Day. Okay, maybe we aren’t that similar, but we both had a baby boy. 

Nevertheless, I am so moved by how you faced the circumstances of this life-changing event so bravely. 

Did you really understand the crazy sequence of events surrounding the birth of your first child? You talked to an angel! Gabriel, no less. Did that help?

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”

Luke 1:28-29, NIV

Gabriel said you were highly favored by God and this troubled you. Are you like me and feel uncomfortable when people say nice things about you because you are unsure of your own worth? Maybe you were simply troubled because this angel-appearing thing didn’t happen every day. You didn’t seem to question his heavenly credentials. Was he glowing, extra tall or somehow otherworldly? 

I’ve never seen an angel, but I’d like to, I think. Not sure if I could be as brave as you were in that moment.

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus’”

Luke 1:31, NIV

Mary, you obviously knew the facts of life because you asked the sixty-million-dollar question.

“‘How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?’” The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’”

Luke 1:34-35, NIV

That must have been a shocker.

Then you said the bravest words I’ve ever heard. 

“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.”

Luke 1:38, NIV

Mary, what a powerful example you are for women everywhere of what bravery looks like. Brave enough to say yes to God. Brave enough to ask the hard questions. Brave enough to believe what God said would come to pass.

Fear kept me bound for many years. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of rejection. Fear of many things. That might surprise some people because my façade looked courageous, but I knew better.

“Brave” has been my word this year, Mary. I chose it during a work conference hosted by The Salvation Army. Their values were displayed on banners: passionate, compassionate, uplifting, brave and trustworthy. Brave leapt off that banner and straight into my heart. Soon after, I ran across a small gold necklace with “brave” engraved on it and purchased it. I’ve worn it almost every day since.

And I have been brave, writing again, journaling, learning Instagram, figuring out technology to launch a website and starting a blog. Be glad you didn’t have to navigate social media, Mary. You had enough going on, with the unplanned pregnancy and all.

I’m setting out my nativity scene because Christmas is almost here. My figurine for you is white porcelain, without color or definition, an abstract representation. It’s easy to forget you were just like me, flesh and blood, tears and laughter, fears and insecurities. Exalted among women, but still a woman.

Mary, I don’t pray to you or anything, but I’m a fundraiser by profession, so I totally get this networking concept. Can I tell you my funny story? Like I said, my son, Andrew, was born on your Son’s special day. Not everyone wants to hear the details, but my water broke at 5 a.m. and I called to my husband from the bathroom:

“It’s time!”

His response?

“It’s too early for Christmas presents. Come back to bed.”

“This Christmas present isn’t going to wait,” I told him. 

That frosty five-degree morning in Central Texas, we slipslided to the hospital. Andrew waited just long enough for our regular doctor to leave for Christmas dinner. I never can remember that stand-by doctor’s name. Andrew was born when much of the world was sitting down to their turkey and dressing.

Another thing we have in common: natural childbirth. I don’t know about you, Mary, but no part of that was fun. At least I wasn’t in a stable! But a woman down the hallway was screaming bloody murder and a faulty monitor with wires was attached to my abdomen. My husband made the sad choice of telling a laboring woman she was not having a contraction when she knew full well she was. He won’t make that mistake again.

Every year, millions of nativity scenes around the world memorialize your maternal role in this first Christmas pageant. We remember your serene smile, your sweet swaddled son, the ox and lamb keeping time, shepherds kneeling and wise men bearing gifts. 

But we women know the truth behind the creche: Childbirth requires a brave heart. Not simply brave for the birthing process, but for the rest of it.

All. The. Things.

Talk about on-the-job training. The thought of raising the Son of God must have been terrifying. But you did a good job, Mary. Your Son turned out well, finished strong. Even rose from the dead and gave us all a way to the Father. 

Mine turned out good too, but that’s because yours set the curve.

Thank you, Mary.

Your brave friend, 

Debra 

Tanner, Henry Ossawa (1859-1937). The Annunciation, 1898. Oil on canvas, 57 x 71 1/4 inches (144.8 x 181 cm). Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1899. Photo Credit : The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY 

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