BY KATIE WAITE
DAY 7: Recognizing Grace | Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.21.17
- Song of Songs 2:8-14. Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.
- Psalm 33:2-21. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
- Luke 1:39-45. Mary Visits Elizabeth
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Katie and her family who welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world just a few days after submitting this piece!]
From our seats at church, on the other side of the altar, I can see a statue of the Virgin Mary. If everything happens as I want it to, meaning we arrive on time and my kids willingly sit quietly and occupy themselves with the missalette, I will kneel down and say a decade of Hail Marys, the prayer that includes those infamous words by Elizabeth in this passage, “blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
More often than not, however, I merely have time for a quick prayer spoken hastily under my breath, “Please, please help me be a good and patient mother like you this week and not throttle my kids during church” before I have to chase my daughter down the aisle or remind my son not to turn around and stare at the family in the pew behind him. However, like Elizabeth, I get great comfort out of “seeing” Mary, even if it’s just in statue form. It’s a reminder to me that grace exists.
I can’t help but think how appreciative Elizabeth must have been of Mary’s visit and how comforting is must have been for her. From a completely physical viewpoint, I can empathize a lot with Elizabeth. Currently, 35 weeks pregnant with my third child, I am waddling more than walking these days. Halfway through my pregnancy I turned 35, technically making me of “advanced maternal age”, a phrase no woman really wants to hear.
Like Elizabeth, I am feeling a lot of leaping in my womb. The only problem is that it’s occurring at three in the morning and less associated with joy and more with the need to use the bathroom. Also like Elizabeth, this baby wasn’t exactly planned. Don’t get me wrong: we wanted to expand our family. We are excited and happy and over the moon and insert any other positive connotations you have with having a child here. It’s just that the Type-A teacher part of me didn’t plan on having another December baby and missing out on Christmas parties and taking maternity leave this year.
Oh, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s not my plans that are important.
Elizabeth hadn’t planned to conceive and when she was made aware of her pregnancy, yet her reaction was one of joy and not complaining that the timing wasn’t quite right. Likewise, when she sees Mary, not only she but her unborn son both recognize the greatness of the Lord that is within Mary.
I can’t help but think of Mary and Elizabeth chatting together happily and in amazement about their pregnancies, but also about this promise of fulfillment that nobody else was aware of yet. Both women immediately recognized the Holy Spirit and the significance of Mary’s pregnancy. Both kept faith in God and faith in the promises He made.
Yet I can’t help but think if each woman both questioned and doubted herself during this time, much like we as mothers constantly question and doubt ourselves on a daily basis. Am I really able for this? Will I do a good enough job? What if I mess it all up? What if God made a mistake? What if He regrets giving me this responsibility?
But God doesn’t make mistakes. Elizabeth was reminded of this when she felt her baby jump in the womb. Her first encounter with Jesus was through her baby, so tiny yet so powerful. Her first realization of God’s grace was in meeting her cousin, a mother. Someone so unassuming carrying the world’s greatest gift.
The poet Luci Shaw wrote about this scripture as well in her poem, “Salutation” ending with the phrase, “And my heart turns over/ when I meet Jesus/ in you.” I thought about this verse last week during my sonogram. It didn’t matter that the image was grainy black and white or that I couldn’t tell the difference between my baby’s elbows and knees, even when pointed out by the technician. My heart turned over. There was Jesus.
I try to keep this in mind when I look at my children. Try being the operative word. I can’t promise it happens during every 3am fetal kicking session or when I am “discreetly” hissing at them to behave. But, just like Elizabeth and Mary, it is my children—my tiny, unassuming, children—that remind me of God’s promise and that grace exists.
Katie Waiteis a writer and teacher who lives in the Washington metro area with her husband, well-behaved dog, and–hopefully by the time this is published–three unruly kids, all of whom went over their due date. When she’s not grading essays or wiping someone’s nose, she sometimes writes on her own personal blog, comomedy.com.