Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Wednesday Woman: Mary
Mary is probably the best known mother in the Bible. The Blessed Mother. The Madonna.
When we think of Mary, we think about all the fancy pictures of her holding Jesus as a baby. She’s perfectly calm. Perfectly serene. Perfectly dressed.
Was Mary’s life perfect?
Far from it.
Many have written about Mary’s story as it relates to two events: 1) the birth of Jesus; and 2) the death of Jesus. Indeed, we could write volumes and volumes of the anticipation, emotion, and miracle of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection – from Mary’s perspective.
But I’ll save that for another day and another blog (maybe even another book). Today, I’d like to focus on the middle. Not the bookends. What was Mary’s life like in the middle -- as a single mother whose oldest son left home to declare his divinity?
How do I know Mary was a single mother? Well, I don’t. But the absence of Joseph in the New Testament leads most scholars to believe he was out of the picture (likely deceased) long before Jesus launched his public ministry. We also know that Jesus was Mary’s oldest son, and that Jesus had younger brothers and sisters.
In fact, early in Jesus’ ministry, his mother and siblings tried to get him to come back home and stop all the ruckus. They thought he had flew the coop. (Mark 3:20-21) At one point Jesus even seems to desert his own family. Rather than giving them special status, he announces, “Anyone who does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:35 (emphasis mine)
From Mary’s perspective – as a single mother – her oldest son, Jesus, had left her alone. She had already lost Joseph, and Jesus was the “man” of the house. He probably supported the family working as a carpenter. If she lost him too, how would she manage alone?
Mary probably didn’t understand when Jesus first left home. And she probably felt completely and totally out of control.
Forget the paintings of Mary as a serene and calm woman, holding Jesus without a care in the world. She couldn’t hold a grown man in her arms. How was she supposed to know that he needed to leave her so he could go and save the world?
I often wonder how Mary held it together during those difficult times. Sometimes, we forget about the middle.