“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother...Jesus saw his mother there....”
John 19: 25-26
Motherhood will break you apart. The first breath of that tiny baby instantly shattering the before. The world will never- can never- be the same. The shift into motherhood reveals a heart you didn’t even know you possessed. The instant love, indescribable. In a moment, the molding begins. The growing. The fierceness. The in and out of you tied up in the one whose life was formed in your very womb.
And because of all of this, I am broken by Mary. Her story is one I can’t quite comprehend. I keep coming back to it. This woman, really just a girl, goes through the 9 months of forming a beautiful little baby. She carries him, feeling him kick and squirm and hiccup and respond to her pokes. She gets heartburn and gets up to pee 6 times a night when there is no such thing as a bathroom. She goes through the pain of delivering this precious child when there is no anesthesia or positionable hospital bed or whirlpool sauna. She is young, and this is her first child. One can assume her labor is hard and long and nearly unbearable, and as if all of that wasn’t enough, she delivers amongst the smells of farm animals on a hard, dirty ground.
The climax arrives, and exhausted, she welcomes this beautiful little boy into the world. He clings to her, his eyes slowly blinking, sleepy on her chest. His tiny fist lay upon her skin. Her pain immediately forgotten. And I can close my eyes and be her for a brief moment. I can feel that precious weight of my own newborn baby, and in all the activity of the entire world, it is just the two of us.
I can feel her unspeakable joy, her fierce protection that mounts immediately. The way the world shifts completely and forevermore. I can feel it. And Mary looks at this child and her heart is overflowing. Does she know? Does she know His purpose? Does she realize what she has just done? Is she aware of what her eyes will watch in 33 years? Does she want to run with Him and hide forever to escape what is coming? Does she know that she can’t? How does she do it? I can’t shake it. I can’t wrap my head around it. I just can’t. I don’t know how she doesn’t get lost in the sorrow of it all.
But then, how do any of us know? As a mother, how do we know what awaits our little ones? How does the sorrow and fear not overwhelm us sometimes? But for the beautiful other side, how could it not? The beauty that overwhelms the dark. The beauty that is found everywhere. Everywhere. I don’t know how Mary felt bringing God’s son into the world. I never will. I imagine God gave her strength beyond what any woman has ever known or ever will. I imagine He gave her moments of joy beyond measure. I imagine He gave her a calm over what was to come. Even so, she bore something so heavy I don’t know how she didn’t break, for she was there to see it end. She graciously brought Him to us, and she somehow, courageously, gave Him back.
She is a better woman than me. I would have taken an ax and hacked the cross down. I would have run, all 5 feet of me, swinging wild at the soldiers beating my son. I would have stopped at nothing to try and free Him. But this is where I find that there is no other possible answer than that God was there, whispering reassurances for her alone. And was it a whisper or a shout that was needed to keep her rooted while her worst nightmare played out in front of her very eyes? As she watched her son suffer and die, God’s voice had to have been a roaring thunder above her heart’s cries. An unshakeable, unquestionable presence in the middle of life’s worst moment. “There is purpose in this Mary. I promise you. He will be OK, and you will see Him again soon...And Mary, I love you. You are my daughter, and remember, He is mine too. Just be patient, Mary. Soon you will see that this is so much bigger than you can imagine.”
Was this her solace? Was it knowing that God Himself was with her son, comforting Him when she could not? Did she finally lose her composure when Jesus cried out that even God had forsaken Him? Did God speak louder than her son’s anguish in that moment, or did the whole earth slide into an oppressive darkness? How did she do it? I have no choice but to believe she mentally, emotionally, and spiritually crawled into the arms of a waiting Father and lay, spent. She trusted despite her pain and waited for Jesus’ pain to end, knowing hers never fully would. She did this, and because she was a mother, she stood. Though she wanted to crumple under the weight, she kept standing. She never took her eyes away from her son because she would not leave Him alone. When He looked for her, she would be there, even though the watching nearly killed her. She had mended all of his boo-boos. She had kissed away His tears, and though she could not take this one away, she would stay as close to Him as she could, and she would not leave His side. He was the King of the universe, God’s very son, but on this side of Heaven, she was forever, simply, His mommy.
When He felt the pain so deep that He cried out that God had forsaken Him, He could look down from His view on the cross and be reassured that His mother had not. I imagine in that moment, His heart must have been filled with unspeakable love for this woman, and for all the mothers who will enter the grave forever changed because of the love they have carried for their children. What a privilege it is to love so fully, and how, but with God can we bear this overwhelming amount of love? His love in us allowing us to give so much of it away. His strength in us allowing us to stand when our knees feel weak. His blessings so abundant that in 3 days time her son would be returned, His flesh healed, His pain no more. Her tears flowing as she lay her hands upon His radiant face. Her heart forever marked by that unimaginable experience, but a peaceful sigh of relief and understanding now passing her lips.
This weekend is a stark reminder of the cross and the freedom it graciously offers, and you can’t help but remember. And I imagine that if you had a drone view of that significant day and zoned in on all of the people who witnessed it, I would be paused on Mary, because outside of Jesus, I imagine her heart was the most broken of all. She witnessed the event like no one else possibly could, and I simply can’t fathom that kind of pain. And so today, everything is all wrapped up together. The cross. His love for me and for my children. My love for Him, and my gratefulness for the 3 gifts He has given me. The way He whispers to us, keeping us upright through the days that without Him would knock us flat. So God today, a thousand thank you’s for the ones I get to call mine. May they one day soon grasp the gift you offer them and welcome it’s beauty, and may they always know how much they are loved.