“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” —Luke 2:19
A couple of years ago I was doing some work at Siete Ranch and reached for a Bible that was sitting in a bookcase. The Bible had belonged to my mother, and I had never used it before. Upon opening it, I found all sorts of notations and underlining, and also various poems and writings stuck in between the pages. But one such insert immediately brought tears. It was an old Christmas gift tag from my younger brother, probably written around age six, and it read: “To Mommy and Daddy. Merry Christmas. Wally.”
It had been in that Bible for approximately half a century. I have no idea whether the original gift had been that Bible or something else, but suddenly I had a clear vision of my baby brother, blond-haired and blue-eyed, sitting in his pajamas under the tree expectantly waiting for “Mommy and Daddy” to open his package that had been wrapped and given with boyish enthusiasm.
The strongest emotion came as I thought about all those years that my mother had opened her Bible and found that tag, remembering that Christmas of long ago and pondering in her heart the miraculous gift of children. It was in that moment that I understood the meaning and power of this particular verse in Luke’s story, and perhaps as much as I will ever understand about the particular burden and blessing of being a mother. Luke tells us that Mary “treasured” the words of the shepherds and “pondered them in her heart.” Surely, like all mothers, she was wondering what would become of this remarkable gift from God that she now cradled to her breast.
Sooner or later all mothers make the painful journey that Mary made: they slowly let go of those precious beings whom they once held so closely and protectively. They somehow find the courage to allow their children to grow up, trusting them completely to the God who brought them into the world as such vulnerable and tiny beings. But I don’t think they ever stop “pondering” the meaning of their children, or the miracle of life, or the extraordinary privilege of being chosen by God for what is simultaneously the most joyful and painful of all vocations.
(Reprinted from THE LONG VIEW: Reflections on Life, God, and Nature, Abingdon Press)