“Yeah, but he was perfect! How hard could it have been for Mary?!” joke my fellow mothers when discussing Jesus as a child and what parenting him must have been like. The women in the circle nod and chuckle, sitting on the floor, surrounded by crumbs and toys and children at our monthly church playgroup.
We show up so the kids can play, we show up to meet like-minded mothers, we show up to get out of the house, we show up hoping against hope that the two-hour ordeal it is to attend a one-hour long play date will be worth the effort.
For our children. For us.
We are tired and scattered, squeezing activities into our days, trying to be good moms, good friends, good wives, and good people. All while rarely stopping long enough to consider the origin of our ideas of what is “good.”
Was it easy for Mary?
I must admit, I hadn’t given the idea much thought before becoming a mother myself. Growing a baby in your very body, birthing and feeding, and raising a child helped open my eyes to the sacred miracle that motherhood encompasses. When I began to consider that Mary’s womb had carried Christ himself, my appreciation for her willingness to say yes to God’s request was born.
But back to the question at hand: Was motherhood easy for Mary?
Jesus, incapable of sin, could not possibly have done anything morally wrong. If our children were perfect, would life be a breeze?
I don’t think so. I daresay Mary encountered more suffering than most of us. Many of us have the luxury of resting in the hope that our children will be happy, healthy, and have unlimited potential. Imagine knowing your child would endure incomprehensible pain. Imagine knowing people would want to take his life from the moment he was born. Imagine watching the torturous death to which he was subjected.
The more I examine the life of Mary, the more I appreciate how hard it was.
How obedient she was. And, the more aware I am that God does not spare those He loves from pain and suffering. Did God not choose Mary to be the vessel to hold His son? To raise him, to mother him? What a woman she must have been! And yet, God allowed her to experience acute pain, suffering, fear, and loss.
Suffering is difficult to understand, but I find comfort when I see that some of the most amazing people I know have suffered the most.
As a mother who has dealt with health issues in her children, an unwanted divorce, isolation, fear, and confusion, it has been easy for me to find myself feeling that God has somehow chosen to pass over me. To feel discouraged and like giving up. I’ve tried so hard and things are still difficult. Why keep pouring myself into this?
It is easy to convince ourselves that if only things were normal they would be easy. Life would be pain-free. We would fully appreciate our good fortune. It is hard not to resent those whose problems seem so comparatively small that we wish we had theirs instead of our own.
When I feel this way, I often think of Mary.
She knew Jesus would die, but she didn’t spend her life wallowing or pitying herself for being the woman God chose to be the mother of Jesus.
Likewise, I can see that the gift of motherhood far outweighs the considerable pain and grief I’ve experienced in my life.
If my children didn’t exist, might I more easily move on from the break-up of my marriage? Would I be spared the torturous experience of co-parenting? Would I have the freedom to move to another city or state? The answer to all of these questions is yes. And even then, when those yeses taunt me, if I look at things objectively, I can say with a resounding certainty that I would never give up my children in exchange for my freedom.
The truth is, motherhood is hard.
Whether your challenges are of the everyday variety or more complicated than average, we mothers can be certain that the one thing uniting all of us, is that some days will not be easy.
And, like Mary, even on the most difficult days, you can rest in the knowledge that God chose you, specifically, to be the mother of your child.
You’ve got this.