I have always been struck by the absence of the Virgin Mary in sermons, Bible studies or conversations about role models that take place in evangelical churches. My hunch is people want to avoid anything that sounds Roman Catholic. Which is unfortunate. Mary is an extraordinary woman.
Yet Mary, in some ways, is caught in the middle. On one hand, she is one who should be venerated. For crying out loud, SHE WAS CHOSEN BY GOD TO BEAR HIS SON! Her response to the angel Gabriel revealed a remarkably mature faith for such a young girl. She doesn't wiggle out of her calling like Moses did: Gabriel, can I skip the being pregnancy part and use a surrogate mother? And after she seeks out her relative, Elizabeth, Mary breaks out in a song that echoes Hannah's prayer (1 Samuel 2) and reveals her understanding of God's bigger story. But unlike Hannah who handed Samuel over to Eli, Mary does not ask Elizabeth and her husband-priest Zechariah to raise her unborn child in the temple. (The continued connection to Hannah cannot be missed however when Mary has to retrieve her young boy from the temple.) She knows her calling is to raise the Son of God herself. She deserves to be called "Blessed."
On the other hand, Mary was also an ordinary woman. Her humanity is most evident when you compile all the references to her in the gospels and observe her through the lens of motherhood. I did this a few years ago and I was pleasantly surprised to see a normal mother struggling with the same problem all mothers have - letting go of our children.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes, to raise what I assume to have been a perfect child. Did her heart jump each time Jesus the baby cried for her breast milk? Did she panic when Jesus the boy fell and marred the skin that wrapped the Messiah? How did she handle the pressure from the town mothers to hook him up with their daughters?
My study resulted in a poem about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Which I would like to share with you. Kind of. It's a bit intimidating to post a poem when I do not claim to be a poet or even aspire to be one. So please bear with my juvenile attempt and listen to the story of Mary, an ordinary mother learning to let go of an extraordinary son, the Divine Son.
A MOTHER’S SACRIFICE
Imbedded nails and lifted post,
That dreadful cross bore my son.
Nerves entwined, in a silent scream,
Mind and soul were now numb.
Gazing upon his battered face,
Grief swelled with each drop of his blood.
In this final test of a mother’s love,
Memories rushed in like a flood.
A virgin message to virgin ears,
Yeshua, Immanuel, his name.
And Simeon spoke of hearts exposed,
But mine would be pierced with pain.
And like the prophecy Simeon spoke,
My own heart rose and fell,
Filled with wonder, then drained with fear,
From a humble birth to death’s knell.
As I nursed the God-man in my arms;
My heart he did fill, my life he did bless.
I gave up my will and gave him my womb,
But he wasn’t mine to possess.
Raising Jesus was a mother’s dream,
A perfect child indeed.
So when he delayed for days at the temple,
I was confused at my young son’s need.
Upset at what seemed to be disrespect,
Worry is every parent’s right.
But he was surprised we were anxious for him
Since he had been Home each night.
I heard, I treasured and pondered those words;
I must not possess was his warning.
Many more years he remained in our home,
But I knew it could change any morning.
Strong in body and wise in mind,
I knew he had power from heaven.
Years passed as I mothered God’s Son,
Waiting for a sign to be given.
Then one day, Jesus departed
For the river baptism by John.
I expected much more than a Voice from above,
Instead for forty days he was gone.
Surely there would be a miraculous sign
When the Messiah was revealed.
So when the wine ran out at a wedding,
I went to my son and appealed.
With a subtle hint, I mentioned the need,
But he knew what I wanted to say.
Again with a gentle rebuke in his words,
A mother’s voice he would no longer obey.
From seas to cities, he gathered disciples,
I watched him with heart full of pride.
But pride turned to fear as I heard words of evil,
“He’s insane, he’s the devil!” they cried.
How dare they accuse him of being possessed!
I know who he is, what he’s worth.
So I had to see him and rescue if needed,
And tell them of his holy birth.
The crowds were too great to even get near
I demanded a message be sent.
Instead of a welcome or a look of relief,
He had words to confront our intent.
“My family are those who do God’s will.”
He pointed to all gathered near.
I knew he was saying the voice of the Spirit
Is greater than a mother’s to hear.
Memories faded as I stood on that hill,
Against the nails my son strained.
Surely God would deliver His Beloved,
But with each hour my hope drained.
Must a mother let go even to death?
What good has my sacrifice been?
I know Jesus saw my questioning eyes
And to John instructions were given.
In the final hour as he hung on the cross,
He gave one last push on the nail.
He cried, “It is finished,” and his spirit departed,
I felt my heart tear like the veil.
When the spear of the soldier pierced his side,
The words of Simeon came true.
With his blood darkened by the sins of the world,
The sword pierced my own soul through.
After the cross and the nails released him,
I held his body so lifeless.
Why should God give but then take hope away,
And a tomb and not me possess?
Little did I know what three days would bring,
Even the tomb would release.
And later the gift of the Spirit would come,
All works to salvation would cease.
My heart he does fill, my life he does bless,
He rules from his heavenly seat.
No more letting go, I finally possess Him,
A mother’s sacrifice now complete.