She was an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life. She never aspired to greatness. She loved the simple, beautiful, humble patterns in every day living. Yet she was given the gift of an exceptional child.
This child was special. He was more mature than his peers. He was wiser, smarter, and more self-contained. Sometimes she thought he was more grown-up than she was, even when he was very young.
Even though he behaved better than any other child she’d ever known, parenting him was sometimes challenging. She was so frustrated with him, scared to death when she couldn’t find him for three days. Over and over she reminded herself, “He’s more capable than anyone else I know. Surely he can get himself out of a bad situation better than the average twelve-year-old.” She tried not to worry, but she had been entrusted with such a precious gift. Could he really be the Messiah, like the angel had said?
When she finally found him, she wanted to hold him close like she did when he was small. But that unique wisdom burned like a slow flame in his gaze and made her step back. It pierced her soul, just like the old man had promised when her son was a newborn baby. How could she argue with her son when he said, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He had been at the temple, talking with the religious teachers. They surrounded her, smiling, telling her about his amazing answers and insights. How could she be angry? She felt confused and more acutely aware of her ordinariness.
Yet he loved her dearly. When he left home and began his ministry, she was eager for him to receive the recognition he deserved. She was proud of her son who showed such promise. At a wedding they attended, perhaps she became too eager, too proud. She pushed him a bit too hard, prodding him to show his greatness at the large gathering. Yet there was kindness and affection in his eyes when he gently reminded her, “My time has not yet come.”
In that glance they shared, he affirmed her years of sacrifice as his mother. She knew that he recognized her desire to see him succeed. But as always, he deferred to the wishes of his heavenly Father. She admired him for that.
Once she traveled to the place where he was preaching, along with her other sons. People pressed around him. A member of his inner circle told him his family was there to see him. He searched her out before he answered, and his eyes locked onto hers when he said, “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” He was not rejecting his family–she could see that in his smile, even from far away. He was expanding his family to include anyone who wanted his love. He never stopped amazing her.
Then, on the day that broke her heart into a million pieces, she watched her son suffer so needlessly, so painfully. She didn’t think she could live through one more moment of seeing him mocked, ridiculed, and shamed. Hanging on that wretched cross, he called to her. “Dear woman,” he said with such tenderness in his anguish. “Here is your son.” His best friend stood beside her, holding her up in her overwhelming grief. “Here is your mother,” he said to his friend.
Strangely, despite the terrible circumstances, she had never felt more loved by her son. In his time of intense suffering, he was thinking of her. He set aside his pain for her. He made a plan to care for her. What a wonderful son he was. How he loved her, and how she loved him.
She could not contain her joy and amazement when he came back from the dead! She touched the nail prints in his hands, remembering how she was the first to kiss his tiny fingers when she laid him in that feeding trough lined with hay. Never, never, would she have imagined her story to turn out this way. Never would she have expected such surprise, adventure, and amazement to come into her ordinary life. What a gift God had given her. What a priceless treasure.
Many moms today feel quite ordinary, just like Mary, the mother of Jesus, likely felt. Her story brings me such hope. She had no idea what her journey as a mother would hold. But she was willing to participate, and that’s what mattered most.
Some of us have exceptional children, or maybe we were exceptional cases ourselves. I was a gifted student. I was the youngest in my class, accepted into kindergarten at age four. Even as the youngest student, I was often more serious and more adult-like than my peers. My mother, an irrepressible extrovert, hardly knew what to do with her sensitive, melancholy, shy firstborn. I was unusual, and my mom sometimes faced challenges in knowing how to parent me.
My oldest child is exceptionally mature for his age. He was born grown up, just like me. When he was four, he decided to sit at the girls’ table in pre-kindergarten because the boys were too rowdy for his tastes. He’s still like that now. As a thirteen-year-old, he is often aggravated by the goofy or immature antics of his peers. He thrives on adult interaction and friendships with older teens. I am somewhat anxious about how to parent my son, who already sees himself as a grown-up but can’t yet handle adult issues.
Yet what I feel most is honor about my son. I am honored to be his mom. God gave me a special gift, this boy who was born grown-up and who will grow to become a leader. God gave my mom a gift in me, and I know she treasured me even when she didn’t understand me. God gave Mary the most exceptional child ever born, and she must have felt deeply honored.
An exceptional child is not a gift you can choose. That child is a gift bestowed on you, because God wants to honor you. He wants you to return glory and praise to him in thanks for your exceptional gift.
Most of all, God wants to see our openness and willingness to receive any exceptional gift he gives us. Mary was willing and open, and that’s what speaks to me from her story. She had no idea what honor, glory, and pain awaited her by becoming Jesus’ mother. But she was willing to accept with blind faith. In return, she received the privilege of being the first woman Jesus ever loved, here on earth. What an amazing privilege and honor!
Questions for reflection:
What part of Mary’s story brings you hope or inspiration?
What exceptional gift has God entrusted to you?
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