The next part of the Mary trilogy is the part that I really like to think about. Here's the story:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
I love that story. It's my favorite of Christmas. And I think of it other times of year when I am troubled and doubtful because it has all the pieces that I pick up and use when I am thrust into a situation that I had not anticipated.
For instance, the fear. Do not be afraid. I need to hear this about eight times a day. Do not be afraid. My friend Wendy says that all of human interaction is a result of either fear or love. She says everything boils down to just that: fear or love. There is so much of life, and love, that frightens me. I am so afraid of the unknown, my own limitations, my shortcomings, my famous impatience. I'm afraid of not being able to manage, not having a perfect response, not knowing the answer; not knowing at all. I'm afraid of being judged as unworthy and inept. And in those times, I can feel the dark settle about my shoulders as if it were a coveted collar, worn in special company. Fear is my default position of choice. Such a luxury.
Mary had to be shocked with fear when Gabriel came to her with the news of impending motherhood. Just what would the neighbors think? How was she to tell her own mother and father? How could she mother a baby with an old man as the father? How in the world was this all going to work out? And, was she supposed to have sex with this guy once she claimed him as the baby's father? What? And what else was Gabriel not telling her? I love to think about her as Gabriel went into the details and how she processed the incredible scenario he laid out.
The other part of that story that I love to think about are all the possible out loud reactions to what Gabriel was saying that would have, could have been legitimate. This is a terrible time of year to be pregnant. I have finals; as long as we're spinning the Tale Fantastic, could this baby be born when it's a little more convenient? I want a better father, a legitimate life partner, somebody that will make me laugh and who is handsome. What about my job? Hey, this is my body; don't I have any say in the matter?
But as the story goes, she didn't. She said, May it be done to be according to your word. Here's why that inspires me: I can think of a half a dozen times in my life when I was presented with unlikely, improbable and unpromising assignments of life that come to each of us unbidden. Wendy calls them AFGOs, or another fucking growth opportunity(s). On these particular times, when I was minding my own business and along comes these unsolicited megadevelopments, I allowed myself to be open to challenge, to possibility and somehow, incredibly, made a conscious effort not to be scared. I just decided. And these were the times I landed a sweet windfall, made a friend for all time, learned a lesson that neither of my parents learned or grew 10 inches taller, figuratively. These were the times that I went forward in faith and love and low and behold, found myself mothering Our Lord, so to speak.
So to speak. Seems a little blasphemous to say it out loud. But I am saying it and this as well: I need to be a little more Mary, a lot more Mary, and a little less Belle. In and out of advent. I need to take off the fear collar and put it away for all time and be confident that no matter my inadequacies, I can still mother anyone. So to speak.
The 'Kan EWA