The Hebrew name Mary has always been extraordinarily popular, dating back to the time of the New Testament. At least half a dozen women mentioned in the Bible bore the name Mary. For this reason, Jesus’s mother is often identified as “Mary, Mother of Jesus.” Mary was a beloved follower of God. Because of her faithfulness, she was chosen to bear and care for the Son of God.
Every time I read about Mary, I realize a new connection I have with her, directly or indirectly. She was a young teenager when she became a mother. My sister turned 14 years old shortly after the birth of her first daughter. Her favorite lullaby to sing to my niece was “Mary, Did You Know?”. When I became a mother two years ago, I found that the same song had a new meaning to me. Suddenly, I had a new connection to Mary, as I tried to imagine how it must have felt to hold Jesus as a babe, and to wonder at the marvelous miracles to come from him (Luke 2:19). The birth canal is the channel of life; Mary gave birth to the channel of Eternal Life for all of mankind.
Before I became a mother, I nearly became a divorcee. Like Mary, I experienced a time when my husband wanted to divorce me because of something I did which brought disgrace to him. During a difficult time early in our marriage, my husband and I were arguing before a trip out of town to spend Thanksgiving Day with his family. The argument rose to a peak, and I decided not to go with him. He refused to take me back home, but headed towards the Interstate instead, in a rage. We both had reached a point that we did not trust each other, and I called the police. All I wanted was to get out of the car, and at that moment, I could not come up with another solution. Being pulled over and having a policeman put handcuffs on you as strangers drive by peering out at you is a very embarrassing, disgraceful scenario. What brought disgrace to my husband is in no way comparable to Mary’s premarital pregnancy. We were out of God’s will at the time, but I could not continue on that path with my husband. When the policeman told my husband to get out of the vehicle, and we parted ways, I was putting the future of our marriage in God’s hands. I was trusting that He would fix what we had allowed to spiral out of control. And He did. At first, like Joseph, my husband’s immediate response was to seek a divorce (Matthew 1:19) But, God placed a love for me in my husband’s heart and, over a period of six months or so, directed my husband back to me. We both committed to being servants of God, and He healed our marriage, then blessed us with four children.
If I reach back in my memory bank, I can not recall the day that I met the man I call Dad. But, just before my 18th birthday, my mom confessed that my “Dad” is not my biological father. He adopted me when I was two years old. Through my mom’s eyes, I can see how grateful Mary must have felt towards Joseph for raising Jesus as his own son, because that is what my dad did for me (Matthew 1:24). Like Joseph, my dad provided for me financially and cared as much for me as for my siblings. Sadly, nothing is mentioned about Joseph once Jesus began ministering. I suppose we can assume that Joseph died before Jesus’ crucifixion and left Mary to be a widow, as Jesus asked his beloved disciple to care for his mother just before he died on the cross (John 12:27). Similarly, my dad left my mother around the time that my marriage was healed, which would be the ultimate jumpstart to my ministry alongside my husband. Now, I pray for God to send someone to care for my mother both spiritually and financially, be it through a godly husband or the salvation of one or both of my brothers.
Finally, I feel that I can connect with Mary in that we both were raised naively in a small town, only to be swept into the world of travel once married. I lived in the same house for seventeen years, but I have moved eight times since I’ve been married. With Joseph, Mary traveled to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Israel, and back to Nazareth. She submitted to Joseph, just as Joseph submitted to God.
Although I feel drawn to her life story for many reasons, the only aspect that I truly wish to share with Mary, Mother of Jesus, is her character. The mere fact that God chose her to be Jesus’ mother is proof enough that she upheld great moral character. The angel Gabriel referred to Mary as one who was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28,30). As Christians, we are all called to live like Mary. Elizabeth called Mary blessed and praised her faithfulness to God (Luke 1:42-45). Mary’s response was to rejoice and to sing praises to God (Luke 1:46-55). She was humble, referring to herself as a servant of God, even as the flesh of God formed inside her womb (Luke 1:38,48). She was knowledgeable of God and understood His equally infinite attributes of justice and love (Luke 1:50-55). She sought the wise counsel of her elder cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:56). Mary honored and submitted to her husband, as she trusted him and followed him faithfully (Matthew 2:14-15, 21-23, Luke 1:4-5). Joseph and Mary obeyed the law of the land by responding appropriately to the call of a census (Luke 2:1-5). As well, they obeyed the Law of the Lord by presenting Jesus to God and giving the appropriate sacrifices (Luke 2:22-24). They continued to raise Jesus in the church, keeping all the Laws of the Lord (Luke 2:39-41). Even when Jesus was grown, he honored the teachings of his mother, as it is written that he read in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day (Luke 4:16).
From Mary I have learned to humbly accept God’s will for my life, whatever that may be. I have learned that I should submerse myself in God’s Word and sing praises to Him always. As a mother, I observe that I should teach my children God’s commands, emphasizing the importance of loving and encouraging one another. As well, I should teach them to thirst for God by instilling habits of spiritual discipline in them and daily pointing out miracles of God which they may otherwise overlook. When I am in need of advice, I will seek counsel from people who are older and/or more spiritually mature than I. Where my husband leads, I will follow and submit myself to him as unto the Lord. I will conduct myself as a citizen with upstanding moral conduct and integrity, displaying the Fruits of the Spirit and confessing my faults.
As revered as Mary was in God’s eyes, we must all remember that she, too, was a mere human. The same story is repeated in three gospels of Jesus telling the crowd he was talking to that anyone who follows Christ is equal to his mother (Matthew 12:48-50, Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:21). Then, as he hung on the cross, He (God) spent some of his dying seconds showing Mary gratitude by assuring her that she would be taken care of (John 19: 25-27). The ultimate lesson Christians can learn from Mary is to follow the will of God. Even if at times that means feeling great agony like Mary felt as she watched her son die, God assures us that He will always take care of His flock.