I sat across from another young mother as we talked and our children played, enjoying the sunny morning. She watched as my then 8 month old grabbed a toy, stood, and started walking unassisted. She suddenly launched into a defensive explanation of how her child walked much later because her child’s mental capacity was so advanced. Her brilliant child, now 3, was up to speed physically and apparently VERY advanced mentally.
“Early physical development is usually a sign that the verbal and mental development will happen later, especially in boys. Your son will probably be a late talker” she declared matter-of-factly. “How wonderful to have such a gifted child!” I answered with a smile. She beamed. I looked over at the child prodigy and said, “Um, I think your kid is eating sand”.
I can assure you, my son is NOT perfect. He is above average in some areas, but at only 1 year old I am not even certain he is gifted in anything other than escape artistry. He is wonderful, gorgeous, smart, creative, healthy, and a delightful blessing, but he is not perfect and most assuredly not the son of God. Two minutes in a nursery with other kids and his selfish nature will become evident.
I am quite positive that as my son becomes school aged I will meet many more “Mary Moms”. Yes, I just coined that phrase. Mothering styles notwithstanding, these mothers are certain of one fact; their child is perfect- nay, anembodiment of God on Earth. Now, it may be unfair to use Mary, the mother of Jesus as a label because the Bible never shows her asserting herself as the only mother of a truly perfect child. As I experience all that new motherhood has to offer, I sometimes marvel at what it must have been like to birth and raise Jesus. Did she feel the pressure to be the perfect mother to the perfect child? Was she the first to hear Jesus pray aloud—and did she teach him how? Did the other mothers give Mary advice on how to put Jesus on a schedule?
Just think of all the things Mary, the mother of Jesus, could have been the first one to say! For example, while she was pregnant she could have been the first to declare that “Jesus was alive and living inside of me”. Did she ever answer Jesus’ tough questions with, “Go ask your Father” or “You’ll just have to ask God”? Mary was the first of many to spend years following Jesus around, watching his every move. I’m sure that in the toddler years she was the first to seek Him with her whole heart. Was she the first to realize that in spite of her imperfections, Jesus would love her unconditionally and show her grace?
Did Mary have the same challenges in the market as pregnant moms? As she waddled around with her cousin Elizabeth, also miraculously impregnated, did they fall prey to the comments that befall older or young, unwed mothers? “Hmph! You know how you got into this mess, don’t you?” I am sure our pleasing, pure in heart Mary would not have retorted, “Yes, the angel Gabriel, who stands in God’s presence, personally announced to us that we would bear sons so great that the world has not yet seen anything like it.” I wonder if sweet Elizabeth wheeled that belly around and said, “Do you know what happened when my husband, the high priest questioned this child’s birth? He was silenced and will remain so until my son is born. Any more questions on the subject?” I know, our Godly women probably maintained more grace and patience. I suppose my pregnancy hormones are getting the best of my imagination.
I am always amused when I read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke where Gabriel declares Mary to be “blessed among women”. Skip ahead 40 weeks or so to when she is on a donkey uphill both ways (literally- check the topography of the journey) and most likely experiencing early labor or Braxton Hicks contractions. I wonder how ‘blessed among women’ she felt in that moment. I’m sure that as she held her newborn son she did indeed feel truly blessed among women. Despite the miracle and glory of Christ’s arrival, this poor girl certainly had a less ideal birthing situation. The night of the delivery, shepherds brought farm animals to behold her baby. Scripture never mentions silence or crying of the newborn Christ, but if there were sheep present I highly doubt it was a ‘Silent Night’. Before long Joseph and Mary, our new, nursing mother were on the run to Egypt in the middle of the night to protect her child’s life. She was a new mom, figuring it out like all of us. She too had to change diapers, read stories, and juggle her roles as wife and mother. She even had to balance defending her child’s actions with the criticism of others. Imagine the Sabbath after Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers; I am sure Mary was not eager to face the religious leadership. When Jesus started healing, raising the dead, and teaching the mysteries of God, did Mary smile and say, “He gets it from His Father?”
I’ll admit that my very favorite story of Mary, the mother of Christ is when she loses Jesus in Jerusalem. This was not just a 20 minute supermarket misplacement; she went days without realizing he was even missing! Now, the poor woman probably had her hands full with the half-brothers that the Bible mentions and it was common to travel in large family groups, so I will not lay blame. In fact, I can sympathize with her panic. Here she has been entrusted with raising God incarnate, and she has LOST Him! Can you hear Mary’s panicked declaration? “That’s it! Now I have to turn this caravan right back around…” (Sounds a bit like Home Alone to me.)
The Bible skips ahead to when she finds Jesus teaching in the temple, but I think we can make a few assumptions. She went back to Jerusalem. She had a frantic search. Was Mary the first to accost strangers to ask, “Have you seen Jesus? Do you know Him?” Better still, when she found Him and did she give him the motherly ‘I am so happy you’re alive! Now I’m going to kill you myself’ greeting? Was she the first to yell let out a joyous proclamation, “I’ve found Jesus!”?
I have no intention of making light of Scripture—I truly believe it is the Word of God. The Bible is full of stories of real, flawed characters that we can learn from. While the Bible is inspired and written by God, it is also penned by men. Perhaps this is why the Bible isn’t 10 times longer, why there are silent years in from age 13-30 of Jesus, and why every detail down to what Jesus was wearing or how the fish were seasoned is not recorded. For goodness’ sake! God is on Earth! Wasn’t anybody taking notes?
Amazing though she was, Mary was not a perfect mother. Mary lost and found Jesus. She was a little pushy when it came to His first miracle. She interrupted temple teaching to pull the family-time card. However, she finished remarkably well. As she watched her beloved son hang on a cross bloody and beaten beyond recognition, she did not protest. This may be the greatest evidence that she truly believed He was the Son of God. Believe me, if I was being nailed to a cross to die my mother would be throwing the biggest hissy-fit ever witnessed. Mary understood the purpose of the Messiah and held her tongue. She beheld her son and her God.
Mary was a human mother who was doing her best to please her God and raise her children to love and obey Him wholeheartedly. She may be the only mother in history who got proper credit for mothering, despite the fact that the perfection of her child came from the Father’s DNA. Today I take joy and great relief in the grace that I don’t have to be perfect to mother well. Despite my best efforts and intentions, I am FAR from a perfect mother.
When I encounter the “Mary Moms” who are claiming the life verse, “Be perfect, as I am perfect”, I will do my best to be humble before my God and be thankful that in my weaknesses Christ is glorified. In my son’s perfect and not so perfect moments, I will do my best to follow Mary’s example to ‘ponder these things’ in my heart.
I wonder how many older, well-meaning ladies advised Mary to treasure her times with Jesus “because He will be gone before you know it and when he is you will cry and long for the time He will return”. What a profound statement it would be to make to the mother of Christ. Maybe being a mother like Mary isn’t so bad…as long as I don’t become a “Mary Mom”.