Where Mary Meets Us

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“Mary was a mother and pondered like all mothers do in the midst of laundry and cooking and watching the little ones she bore.”

By Kelly Chripczuk

 

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

I noticed her as I passed through the small chapel on my way back to my room where I would pump milk for the two babies I’d left at home. She was standing at the front of the chapel space cradling a child and as our eyes met I felt a moment of recognition and thought, “Now there’s someone I can relate to.”

This was during the first of nine mini-retreats I would be attending for a program on contemplative silence. I was disappointed to see that my fellow participants were older than me by a good twenty to thirty years. As a young mother I felt woefully out of place, painfully aware of my fear that I didn’t fit in, and afraid of the hunch that this was the wrong time in my life to embrace contemplative spirituality—to pursue a call to prayer and silence that stood in such stark contrast to the daily realities of my life.

It was with relief that I noticed the statue of Mary. There she stood, a young woman holding her young child smack-dab in the middle of that holy space and my eyes were suddenly opened to seeing Mary as a mother like me, Mary as a woman who pondered, who prayed in the midst of an everyday, ordinary life.

Mary’s Story

Whenever I read the verse about Mary treasuring and pondering the events of the nativity, I always pictured her sitting primly and properly, hands folded, eyes downcast. What I’m starting to realize, though, is that Mary probably didn’t spend much time kneeling in silence and wonder. Mary was a mother and pondered like all mothers do in the midst of laundry and cooking and watching the little ones she bore – for she was a mother of five boys and an untold number of girls.

I imagine Mary working, spreading hay for the animals or weaving from coarse sheep’s wool as her mind wandered back to the night of the shepherd’s visit. As her hands flitted back and forth with skill, did she remember the rough and wary men who approached the stable with caution, who startled her as she lay there like an animal nestled in the hay nursing her young?

Perhaps there were other days when working quickly surrounded by the noise of the children, the bustle and chatter, that she became aware suddenly of the fine point the knife’s blade as it pierced the skin of the ripe fruit she was chopping. Did that one quick motion bring back the words of the shaking old man, the prophet Simeon, who rushed up to them at Jesus’ dedication? His words that paired her joy with a sense of foreboding, “This child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel and to be a sign that shall be opposed . . . and a sword shall pierce your own heart also.”

As I sink down onto my own couch at the end of another long intense day and struggle for words to pray, I wonder if Mary didn’t also sit weighing her words in the evenings beside a fading fire. Perhaps in those moments she would find the words of that old song rising in her heart, the song of triumph and joy that had burst forth in the early days of that first pregnancy.

I imagine that this pondering, this weighing of the words of promise and foreboding became a backdrop to Mary’s days, like a shadow that hovered and followed in her mind’s eye so that all she did was again infused with waiting and wondering, as it had been on that day when the angel first appeared. Mary carried within herself the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid,” mingled with the words of the shepherd’s report of “good tidings of great joy,” and I believe it was these words that held her, these words that were her treasure even as she held all of the other words in her heart.

One of Us

This is where Mary meets us, all of us mothers, all of us followers who live here in the midst, in-between the promise and fulfillment, in-between “do not be afraid” and “good news of great joy.” All of us who ponder while cleaning, chopping, barking out commands and soothing sweaty brows. All of us who sit quietly in the back of the church cradling little ones while she stands, comfortably, invitingly, at the front.

This Mary—the one who listens, waits and watches in the midst of her mothering—gives me hope. She helps me find the courage to not be afraid and to embrace the good tidings of great joy wherever I find them. There may come a time in my life for kneeling and contemplating quietly, but for now I will hold these words in my heart and ponder them as I live and move and breathe and bustle about.

As I raise these four children of mine I will remember to make eye contact with Mary and feel her kinship as a mother who’s been there too.

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Dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to know:

  • Where in your life does the story of Mary meet you?
  • Do you relate to her?

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About Kelly:

Kelly Chripczuk’s life was turned upside down with the surprise arrival of twin boys in 2011. She is a licensed pastor, blossoming spiritual director and firm believer in the power of “little things” to change the world. Kelly now has four children six and under and is very thankful to have the. best. husband. ever. She blogs at: http://afieldofwildflowers-kellys.blogspot.com/

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