Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebrating Advent with Surgery

I have never given birth to a child. At the ripe old age of 25, I'll admit that in many ways I look forward to-- and hope to experience-- being pregnant one day. But, I also am already a bit fearful about it. Aside from the fact that my emotions are out of control as-is and I can't imagine how pregnancy hormones would add to my particular cocktail of crazy, the thought of giving birth period terrifies me. This is in part because I'm hippie-dippie enough to want to have a child without pain medication, but also just because I'm a teensy person with teensy bones and I can't imagine a human coming out of me. 

That being said, my adult awareness of the anxiety that usually accompanies a woman's first pregnancy has given me a new appreciation for Mary as of late. One of the central characters of Advent, Luke's gospel opens with Mary receiving the scary pronouncement that she would give birth-- unwed (which, for a woman in the ancient world was a fate almost worse than death), and to a child whose special calling from God would cause all kinds of drama. In that moment, Mary was dealing with a kind of "unknown" that I can't fathom. It involved her reputation, her family life and relationships, her future as a mother, and her own body. And her response was, "Let it be unto me according to your word." 

For that reason, Mary is often described as the ultimate disciple, the ultimate Christian: she responded to the call of God with a simple, "yes." It doesn't mean all her questions were answered; it doesn't mean she didn't have fears, doubts, or shattered dreams of her own (I doubt, for example, she envisioned having her first child under such scandalous conditions, or far away from home and help). But it does mean she was receptive to what God had for her, even with all the scandal, pain, and unknowns it entailed. The result? Well, she became the mother of the King. All generations call her blessed (Luke 1:48)

Today my mother is visiting me in Dallas before she heads down for her surgery in Houston. She'll be spending almost the whole month of December in a foreign city under the knife in a pretty scary way. When I remember my own fears of just having a baby inside me-- an invited bodily experience-- I can't imagine what it would be like to prepare for this kind of operation in just a few days. As I reflect on her situation, I remember Mary's simple "yes" in the midst of fearful unknowns and shattered dreams. I see how faithfully the Lord cared for her throughout her whole painful calling of being Christ's mother, and I can encourage my own mother to trust Him, too. 

And in some ways, I can be thankful that this surgery is during Advent. It is a reminder that God doesn't always meet our expectations the way we would like, and that sometimes He asks scary things of us. It is a reminder that belonging to Him and knowing His redemptive love doesn't mean being shielded from unanswered questions, looming doubts, bodily pain, or shattered dreams. But it does mean being given the grace to say "yes" with courage no matter what. And it does mean knowing that whatever the call, we don't go it alone; because the child Mary gave birth to has a name: Immanuel. God with us. 

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