I’ve always wondered what exactly Mary knew and what she didn’t. At the time of Jesus’s birth, historically speaking, Mary was a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl living in the quiet shepherding town of Nazareth. We know that she was unmarried (see: virgin) and that her betrothed Joseph was caught completely off guard by her pregnancy. So much so that he almost didn’t even marry her.
I don’t blame him. If I was a woman’s fiancé and she suddenly wound up pregnant (through no fault of my own), I’d be pretty perturbed about it. And that’s without acknowledgement of the fact that said child was the son of God. I mean goodness, it would take a lot for me to believe that.
Well it turns out that it did take a lot. It’s not like God said (cue big booming voice), “YOUR SON IS THE CHRIST.” And then Mary was like (cue inflection of 100% belief), “SWEET! Thanks God!” Some of us might like to think it played it out that way, but I wouldn’t. It sounds a little too fairytale. A bit far-fetched. And I can’t say I’d relate to that story at all. If the same thing played out in my life, I’d be hesitant to say the least (“Oh, you mean my son is God?? I’m not buying it…”).
But what if God had to tell Mary seven times that her Son was God before he was even twelve years old? And what if she still forgot from time to time, and God had to keep reminding her throughout Jesus’ lifetime. And what if, even when her son died, she still wasn’t even 100 percent sure that this whole “coming back to life” thing was going to play out?
That’s a story I’d buy.
It’s easy to get caught up in humanity. Between swaddling diaper changes, and potty training, I’m sure Mary sometimes forgot that, oh yeah, my son is God. I mean, I am not even the mother of God and I forget God’s messages all the time. Just last month I sat down with my Bible only to realize I wasn’t believing any of it. I had been studying the word for weeks at grad school and, in my relentless research, I free to feel more and more antagonized by it. Each word felt more and more preposterous! Mary a virgin? Bah. Jesus as God? Omg.
But when I gave myself a chance to understand my discontent, I realized that my actual problem wasn’t with the events themselves, or even the people involved in them, but rather my own need to explain them. My need to logicalize them (new word, go with it). Simply put, I was reading the stories as if they weren’t true.
It’s like when someone tries to convince me that GMO’s are going to save the world (don’t get me started). I start spouting all my knowledge on the subject (because hello, I’m extremely well versed here) and I refuse to give a second thought to anything anyone else has to say about it.
Well as it turns out, I was doing the same thing with the Bible. I would read about Mary’s virginity or Jesus’ divinity while simultaneously shaking my head. “Well this clearly can’t be true because you can’t get preggers without semen. And c’mon guys, people just don’t rise from the dead.” I’d let my rational mind take over my emotional mind and in the process completely hardened myself against miracles. They seemed to far-fetched to believe.
So I was amazingly relieved when I read Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth and read how God told Mary, not once, not twice, but seven times that her Son was kind of a big deal: The angel Gabriel tells her before she conceives, her cousin Elizabeth tells her after she’s pregnant, the shepherds and the magi both tell her after she gives birth to her son, two people (Simeon and Anna) both prophesy about him when she presents the baby Jesus at the temple, and when Jesus turns 12-years-old he finally tells her himself.
And all the while, you know what Mary does? Ponders. Treasures. She thinks these things over. She mulls them over in her heart and swishes them around in her mouth. What does this all mean? She must have been thinking. Why do people keep telling me this? Am I going crazy? Am I seeing things? Hearing things? Could this really be true?
She doesn’t believe it blindly, probably not even instantly. But she listens, and she learns, and she ponders, and she treasures, and gradually, over time, God’s message starts to sink in. She starts to see the truth. She starts to believe in the miracle. But, even through this process, she obeyed. She didn’t hide or somehow try to derail God’s plans. She just lived it out, trusting that to God, it made sense.
That’s what God does with us each and every day. He reveals truth after truth, and miracle after miracle. Sometimes we harden ourselves against them, and other times we believe them. Sometimes it seems like life can only be rational, and other times it seems as though there’s only the miracle.
But God persists, and tells us time after time. He tells us one time and then seven times and then seventy times seven times. All so that one day it might finally sink in. That we might see the red thread and believe in the impossible. All so that one day, we might believe in the miracle. In the meantime, dear, walk in obedience. Because only by taking it one step at a time can you step into the center of His calling for your life — and it will be so miraculous!