December 9, 2020
Terri Storer, Certified Spiritual Director
We draw nearer to the birth of Jesus in this Season of Advent. I recall a time in my life when this was a time of frenetic activity. Self-imposed, as well as societal, expectations generated a long To Do list impossible to accomplish by any human being, let alone a “working outside the home” mom. Somehow I’ve let go of these expectations and have come to appreciate Advent as a time of slowing down in simplicity instead of speeding up.
I find myself at the end of the day, as the house quiets, sitting in my living room with the lights off and resting in the glow of tiny white lights on the tree. A time for reflection and grace. A sense of peace in the stillness fills me and comforts me.
Consider more deeply Mary’s experience
For several years now, I’ve been drawn to Mary and her experience in the story. She is preparing for the new season in her life. Can you imagine? After being “troubled” by the angel Gabriel’s greeting and having her question about conceiving answered, she has said “Yes” to an unplanned pregnancy and giving birth to a little boy who will become a great man, the Son of God.
It seems like she said “Yes” without really thinking about it. The protective Mom in me is triggered . . . Did she consider all the consequences? What about the uncertainty, fear, judgment from others? And what about this Holy Spirit thing? She is so young and naive. I could even go so far as to question God’s motive for choosing Mary. Is it because she is young, naive, and easily persuaded? In the midst of my own anxiety for her, I’m also in awe of her faithfulness, willingness, and trust.
If you’re like me, I’ve been in situations where I’ve heard an invitation and responded with a Yes. And, then . . . reality sinks in and I start “thinking” about it, “Oh my word, what have I just said YES to? How can I do this? Do I have time? What am I thinking? Who am I to do this? I’m not equipped, worthy, and on and on. . . . “ Yet for Mary, it wasn’t just a “Yes” to chairing a committee, visiting the homebound, teaching a class, or being called into a vocation of ministry.
Mary was preparing to be the Mother of the Son of God!
Did Mary second guess her “yes”?
Although, I have to wonder if Mary, too, wasn’t overcome with her own doubt and questions about what she just said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to our word.” (Luke 1:38) Luke tells us in verse 39, she “went with haste” to be with Elizabeth.
On the surface, I’ve thought Mary went to be with Elizabeth for three months to escape ridicule or even was “sent” away by relatives. On deeper reflection, Elizabeth, a relative who was also dealing with her own divine experience of a pregnancy late in life may have been just who Mary needed to be with.
Elizabeth could have been a mentor and listener for Mary
Perhaps, the angel Gabriel mentioned Elizabeth’s situation as a nudge to Mary to reach out to Elizabeth? Perhaps Gabriel knew she would be needing a trusted spiritual companion in her doubt. Did Gabriel know she would need a safe place for sharing? A space and time to share her fears without judgment, to be vulnerable and honest, to bare her soul?
Imagine Elizabeth’s own spiritual journey of suffering and joy of being in her 6th month with child. So, when Mary entered, Elizabeth appears to be ready . . . Without hesitation, she eagerly welcomes and blesses Mary among all women. Elizabeth believes in Mary’s desire to fulfill what was spoken to her by the Lord.
Did Elizabeth create space for Mary to embrace who she was being called to be – the Mother of the Son of God? Was it Elizabeth’s availability and presence that grew Mary’s willingness to open herself to all of what God was asking of her? Was it Elizabeth’s listening that moved Mary into her Song of Praises for God and the vision of transforming the world through her Son?
The Gospel of Luke tells us she stayed with Elizabeth for three months. Not a surprise given the great work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these two women. This wasn’t a weekend visit type of thing.
Maybe, as Jesus was growing, Mary was growing in her own soul . . . and as a guide to her son
I continue to ponder . . . Was this also a time for Mary to deepen her relationship with God, time for stillness, and time to prepare to be a role model and teacher in the life of Jesus, the Son of God? Was it Mary who taught Jesus to take time to go away to pray, to be moved with compassion, to see and embrace those on the margins, and to come up with all of his parables and questions? Did Mary listen Jesus into claiming all of who he was created to be by God? Was she his Mother and spiritual companion?
Who listens to you and shares the journey with you now?
In our own uncertain times with a global pandemic, political upheaval, and societal norms shifting, Mary and Elizabeth are powerful teachers for us. They persevered in their faithfulness, they embraced their interconnectedness, they held space for one another as they listened to their God. They said “Yes” to the Holy Invitation.
Who are your spiritual guides, companions, and friends who help you live into your own questions and your own inner truth of who you are created to be and do? Where are you finding a safe place to share your vulnerability? Where are you finding a sense of acceptance and belonging? How are you finding comfort and peace for mind, body, and soul?
Sometimes it is stepping out in faith to connect with a trusted spiritual companion to share in the journey. You are loved and worthy of having someone hold space for you.
Sometimes it’s listening to little nudges that surface around us. Trust the Holy Spirit is at work in your life.
Sometimes it is as simple as sitting where we are gazing at the glow of tiny white lights. Your mind, body, and soul are grateful for rest in the stillness.
Reflect on who has been a blessing to you. Who can you be a blessing to in this season?
May the tiny white lights shine brightly in all of our seasons. Amen.
Terri Storer, Certified Spiritual Director