If I’ve learned anything from my friends having babies, it’s that no matter how you try to prepare yourself, you are always hugely unprepared for the massive ways life changes after the baby arrives.
Exhaustion. Unpredictable hormones. The lack of opportunity to eat a meal while it’s hot for at least three years.
Mary (and Joseph, to some extent) also faced this, but without a birthing suite, Target registry or suburban house to come home to. Instead she got to experience the fatigue and the postpartum mood swings WHILE giving birth in a cave and then making a run for it to save the baby’s life.
When I first posted these thoughts on the “real” Mary and Joseph, I got some pushback. It’s true this young couple experienced an unparalleled adventure with God…….but it’s also true they were human beings, with all the messy feelings that entails.
So I stand by my post. I think the whole Christmas story could have been easier on that 14-year-old girl, but I trust God had his reasons. And when I get to heaven I’m giving Mary a hug.
Last night I dreamed that Julie Andrews and I went grocery shopping. So it is safe to assume that God was not giving me a message as he did with Joseph.
I think a lot about Joseph this time of year. I wonder about him—other than the short narratives in Luke and Matthew, we don’t know much. He was “a good man,” according to Matthew, which seems an understatement—he was rewarded for his goodness with gossiping neighbors, a truly horrible road trip to Bethlehem, and having to raise Someone Else’s child.
I think about his dreams: both the ones from the angel that most likely did not include Julie Andrews, and his dreams for himself, which most likely did not turn out as he wanted. I think about his quiet willingness to sacrifice one for the other. When he left for Bethlehem did he know he would be gone for years and that the trip would include a detour to Egypt? Did he ever look at Mary in the firelight after they’d put the baby to bed and silently resent her? Did he wish they could have had a precious year or two as newlyweds before having to assume the responsibilities of parenthood? Did a dark part of his soul occasionally wonder what it would have been like if he’d just been a little more passive and let Herod kill the boy?
I think about Mary, too. Was she afraid of losing Joseph? Did she cry herself to sleep at night until he changed his mind and decided to marry her after all? Did she wonder if she’d done something wrong or misunderstood the angel?
I wonder if she knew, when she left for Bethlehem, that the baby would arrive there and if she cried when she hugged her mother goodbye. During the delivery did she wish desperately for her mom and sisters? Did Joseph help with the birth, and was she completely mortified by the experience?
Most of all, I wonder if either one of them ever just got good and mad at God. It’s not the kind of thing you talk about in Sunday school, but the whole story seems unnecessarily cruel to me.
God could have arranged for things to be easier on this young couple and still have fulfilled the prophecies. This man and woman sacrificed their reputations and personal plans so they could be part of God’s plan—in my limited view, they deserve better than they got.
So I think about them a lot each December, and I think about them other times, too. I don’t know why God didn’t smooth out some of the details for them. And sometimes I don’t understand why God seems to make it so difficult for me when I’m trying so hard.
But when I obey and things still seem to fall apart, or when the journey seems cruel and difficult past the point of “character building,” I remember that the story is always bigger than my feelings or my convenience. This Christmas, I remember that the absence of comfort does not equal the absence of God.