I think Mary must have been an introvert, listening and reflecting more than she spoke. After the shepherds stormed into the birthing room, marveling over the infant Jesus and (probably) loudly relating their story about the multitude of heavenly host that recently had them surrounded, everyone else in the room vehemently discussed the shepherds’ story and wondered what it meant.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19). She didn’t speak, just collected this news, mulling it over quietly. She already knew she was in the middle of a magical story that would include every essential element of a riveting plot: strong characters, conflict, and the triumph of good over evil.
This was one of those moments that Mary and God shared privately, because who could really understand?
Have you ever had any moments like this? Moments where life is a bottomless well of meaning? Moments where all you know to do is to place them in the treasure box of your heart and marvel? In her book Wonderstruck, Margaret Feinberg describes these moments as being “sprinkled with pixie dust.”
Have you ever held a profound secret that only you and God shared?
I have felt this way only a few times in my life. The first was when I decided to move to China. My roommates at the time were engulfed in life and death. One was in love and the other had a family member who was dying. And my impending move was not happy news for my parents, who hoped that God’s will for my life would lead me down the street, not across the world. So I celebrated in isolation, rejoicing that God had made His way clear. And I silently wondered how He would enable me to take this leap across the world as a single woman. I considered how He would use me and whether or not He would seem different to me in another country.
The second time was when I fell in love. Like being pulled along in a current where I couldn’t swim backwards if I tried or like a slide where you can’t fight gravity to get back to the top once you have begun to fall, love was more powerful than I had expected. But I was 10,000 miles from my love and all my friends and family, so God was my confidante. He alone held my questions, fears, and hopes as I stood in awe at the strength of a love that could propel me in directions I had never expected to go.
Years later, having a human being growing inside me was the ultimate secret. My husband and I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant for weeks and though my husband knew, only God truly shared the incredible mystery with me. God knew my child’s name before I did and had chosen that egg and that sperm at that time to create the person He wanted to create. And when my son came skidding across the bed and was laid on my chest? Inexplicable love. Wordless wonder. The kind of moment where human fingers brush the clothes of the Divine and power leaks out.
I aspire to be more like Mary. To absorb more and pontificate less. To meditate rather than act thoughtlessly. To be a contemplative in a world that demands action. And I want her awareness of the presence of God in a normal, dusty stable that smelled of horse manure and chicken feed. I long for her peace when all around her screamed that she should fear the unknown and impossible.
I am not Mary. I will never give birth to the son of God. But I am a future character in the same story in which she is featured. Lines of sacred and secular sometimes blur into holy moments of recognition and are added to my heart treasure box just as Mary added them to hers. In these moments, all I can do is freeze in amazement because God, the author, is moving His divine story forward–whether I am aware of it or not.
What about you? Have you ever had any moments in your life where you felt like you shared a secret that was for you and God alone?
What would it take for you to become more contemplative?
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