Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Mary, did you know..."

"Mary, did you know
that your baby boy,
would someday walk on water?
Mary, did you know
your baby boy would
save our sons and daughters..."
- Mark Lowry
It wouldn't really be Christmas, if Kathy Matthea's  "Mary, did you know?" didn't begin to sing itself through my heart like a lullaby of grace.    And, I think, she did know. I believe that Jesus' mom knew the promise of peace her son was.  The promise of goodwill.  The promise of healing and redemtion.

  Nothing he did to ignore her, nothing he said to deter her, nowhere he went to escape her...could hurt her.   She was his mommy.  

The young girl in the manger, was also the woman who was "last at the cross."  She was there when the angels sang of his wonder,  she was there when shepherd kneeled in holy benediction on a frozen earth, she was there when the cattle lowed a humble lullaby.  She was there when lame men lept, when the blind saw men as trees walking, the leper was cleansed, when kings wept...and she was there with spices, for anointing, at the tomb. 

I forgot this message for a while.  I forgot the power of love that his mother's story prophesies.   It all got lost in a fuzzy sort of abstraction that separated the divinity of the Christ message, from humanity of Jesus and his story. But Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to "take the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life," and states that "the divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus." So how did I get so lost. The Bible I love so much, and do take as my sufficient guide, is full of the Christ message as told through the stories of Jesus' humanity. Countless stories of his very human, unconditionally loving behavior. Well, where do I think he learned how to love like this...with an affection that is unreasonable to the human mind and goes beyond the boundaries of what seems deserving.  I believe it was from a woman who never forgot what she knew. 

I have seen (and felt from my own mom) this kind of relentless, persistent, unflappable love in action...and it takes my breath away.  It always has, and it always will.

I have a very good friend.  Over a decade ago, her child decided that it was no longer importan to have a close relationship with his mother.  He was a man now, and no longer needed a mom.  She had raised him -- and according to him, not as well as he would have wished.

She had bathed, fed, supported, and believed in him for over 20 years, but he felt that she'd let him down financially. After his father's passing, he'd had to pay his own way through college.  His friends hadn't.  He felt that she should have made better long-term financial decisions.  He blamed her for his college loan debt.  And, he later explained, felt that if he had to work extra long hours at work to pay it down, reclaiming that time by not spending time calling, or visiting, with her, was the price she had to pay. 

Sure, he'd show up for holidays and family gatherings, but he wasn't going to make the same mistakes she'd made and put so much attention on these family relationships at the expense of his financial security.  He was going to be a success.  Anyway, she had church friends and neighbors, couldn't they call her on weekends.

And although her friends would say that this beloved son had been the apple of her eye, in his eyes she just hadn't done it right enough.  Couldn't she have just been a bit more...well, you name it...loving, strict, kind, affectionate, alert, trusting, prudent, generous.  But even that didn't matter now, he was an adult.  No need for mom to concern herself any longer, he was his own person.

I'd remembered this loved son as young boy.  He was sweet, gentle, and adored.  But when I met him next, he was a grown man with a chip on his shoulder. 

"Imagine," he said to me when we ran into each other,  "my mom wants me to come home for the holidays.  Can you believe it?"  He explained, hoping for an ally, that he had a life to live, a purpose to fulfill, a woman to meet, lives to touch with the genuine wonder of his deep spiritual commitment to God.  "And anyway," he said to me that afternoon on a park bench, "didn't Jesus say..." and then he paraphrased this section of scripture from Luke:

"There came then his [Jesus'] brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.  And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

And he answered them, saying, "Who is my mother, or my brethren?"

And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother."

Okay.  Can I say here that if I hadn't know him as a sweet, gentle boy, I might have shaken him silly.  But I loved his mom...and she loved him...so...I prayed.

And that was when it occurred to me, that his seeming disregard for his mother's role in his life, was not going to change
her love for him.  Her love for him was unconditional.  Her love for him was "without question."  He was still her little boy.  He was still the child that his mother (this same woman he was so quick to dismiss as irrelevant) had loved, cherished, cared for, believed in, and adored.  He was still the precious child she believed could do anything he set his heart to. 

So I took a deep breath, and in the space of that breath, I remembered my own earlier years of immaturity...and dismissiveness...with
my mother.  It was such a clarion call to compassion and meekness.

And, I knew that this once precious
little boy, was now a deeply spiritual young man.  We shared a love for God, a love for the Bible, and a genuine hunger for spiritual answers. So together, in the gentle, informal way that friends share inspiration, right there on the park bench, we explored the complete story of Jesus' relationship with his mom, Mary.  My young friend and I went to the master for answers. As contemporary disciples, we truly wanted to understand the role that parents play in the lives of their children - and vice versa. And together, we were led to that precious moment of redemption at the foot of the cross, when a boy looks down at his own mother and says:
"Woman behold thy son."
And then, I believe he says, to himself...in front of his disciple, John, and not to him:
"Behold, thy mother."
As we sat there thinking about his words, we couldn't help but remember Jesus the boy, who at 12, leaves his parents without telling them where he was going, during a family trip, to sit and chat with rabbis and lawyers in the temple.  We are a bit shocked by the young man of thirty, who rebukes his mother at the wedding they are attending together in Cana.  And then later, we watch on as this much sought after spiritual teacher, dismisses her in the story above. 

But, it is at Calvary, in the shadow of the cross, with only two companions and his mother - who has
always loved and believed in him - standing by when all others have fled, that he finally acknowledges his mother's role in his life, and makes provision for her care after his passing.  And in doing so, he attends to her heart, and gives us a model for human behavior.  

Mary, did you know?  Yes, I think she knew   She knew who her son was and the promise his life held, for a waiting world.  I think
all mothers know this very thing about their sons and daughters. We know the promise our children offer to a world hungry for innocence, strength, intelligence, beauty, grace, courage, integrity.  We know the truth of all that they can be...and we bear witness to that promise every day.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"A mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties."

What a promise!  No interruption in the eternally flowing affection of mother-love in the lives of either the parent, or the child...now, or ever.

The story of Jesus' relationship with his own mom is a gift to each of us.
My friend's son and I both "got it" that crisp autumn day in the park.   And when Christmas rolled around, we were both with our moms.

My friend has been so blessed by her son's willingness to be led into a deeper affection for his mother. She enjoys spending many of her holidays with a loving, kind, deeply spiritual and attentive son who never misses an opportunity to include his mom in his life.  And I am blessed by his friendship, by the lesson we learned together that day in the park, and by his willingness to let me share this story.


Kate Robertson, CS

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