What Mary’s Pierced Heart Can Teach Moms This Christmas

We hold our babies, swaddle them, sing to them. We study their hands unwrapping their fingers' grip on ours, wondering if they’ll be able to palm a basketball or reach an octave on the piano. We love to dream of their potential. We pray for them. But every mother knows we can verbalize only a fraction of what we feel toward our children. The rest is stored up, treasured, in our hearts. When it comes to our children, our hearts are deep mines.

In this way, we are like many mothers before us. But perhaps one mother stands out above them all. On more than one occasion, Scripture records for us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had a full heart for her child too.

As the shepherds intruded into the intimate birthplace of Jesus, relaying all the news to the bleary-eyed parents that the heavenly beings had just declared to them, Mary pulled her baby close wondering at the stir his birth has caused. “[She] treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

When she and Joseph obediently presented him at the temple in keeping with the Law, devout Simeon took their bundle from them, blessing God and calling the baby Salvation, Light, and Glory. Simeon turned to Mary and looked in her young eyes which betrayed the frail vulnerability of most first-time moms. Mary, this common girl who was chosen for a unique and burdensome task, braced herself at Simeon’s hard words that the “child is appointed for the fall and rising of many…and for a sign that would be opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:22-35)

From there on out, she had to carry these difficult sayings with her.

It reminds me of some of the moms who have sat across a doctor’s desk as they are told of their child’s medical diagnosis involving the painful and unexpected physical, emotional, and sensory suffering their child will endure.

Or moms who have had a pastor, school administrator, or law enforcement officer look them in the eye and tell them of their child’s poor, rebellious choices that have caused hurt and danger to themselves or others for which they will now need to bear the consequences.

Or adoptive and foster moms who have had a caseworker tell them their child’s birth family history and it’s like a punch in the stomach from which they never quite recover. It’s grief they will always hold as they dearly love and learn to parent a child with trauma.

Or moms whose grown children have looked them in the eye telling them they are turning away from the faith they were trained in, or the spouse they promised to love until death, and are making a new path for themselves.

These hard conversations, words passing through air that land, not just in their ears, but pierce their hearts like a knife that never comes out.

How did Mary respond to the knife that pierced her heart?

Mary, admittedly, is in a unique place no other woman will ever be – experiencing a virgin conception then birthing and raising the Son of God. But as different as her circumstances were from ours, I believe her example is valuable to us. I believe we desperately need Mary to show us what faithful mothering looks like while a sword is piercing our souls.

  • Mary submitted to God’s sovereign choices in her life. Step by step as her hard story unfolded, she surrendered to him under it. She said submissively, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Those were words she never forgot. She served him obediently and did what her Master asked of her even when his sovereignty caused her mother’s heart pain.

  • Mary stayed engaged and involved in parenting. Even when Jesus was old enough to have some independence at the Feast of the Passover and she lost track of him, she spent the next few days searching for him. (Luke 2:43-45) Although she doesn’t understand all he was called to do as God’s Son, it still strikes me that she looked for him. As he got older, she didn’t “check out” of parenting him for her own self-protection, anticipating the break in relationship, knowing the reality that he had things to do of which she was not part. She stays engaged. She actively parented him and didn’t withdraw from him emotionally or physically. She was present. And she was even confrontational with him like a good mother should be, continuing to require him to submit to them, which, of course, he does. (Luke 2:48,51)

  • Mary hopefully endured for the glory of God. The strongest women aren’t the most demanding. They aren’t the loudest and brashest. They aren’t always the movers and shakers and new lawmakers. They aren’t the women bench-pressing as much as the men at the gym. But they always are the women who know and trust their God. They know he is mighty and they hold onto the hope of what his might can accomplish. They wait for his mercy because they understand it can’t be time-stamped – it reaches from generation to generation. (Luke 1:37, 46-55) Mary endured while watching the Son she once swaddled being stripped and beaten. She watched his hands, her mind flashing back to when his baby fingers were wrapped around hers, now open to receive a piercing nail. The one who was present with joyful relief when he took his first breath of air at birth, stood nearby his cross as he struggled to breathe his last. Of all the pain a mother might endure, this has to be the worst.

Even in the pain of mothering, when all seems lost and we want to pull away and leave them to their own way. . . when that sword piercing our soul taints our days from the moment we open our eyes to the time we pillow our head, we ponder these things in the deep mine of our hearts and read of Mary’s faithful example. We remember that “whatever was written. . .was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
Let’s look for Mary this Christmas. She’s everywhere. . .in the nativity scene, on our postage stamps, and in the pages of Scripture. And let’s learn from her - making her theology ours, her submission ours, her continued involvement ours, and her endurance ours.

We can look forward to that day when with her, we’ll have the knife removed from our hearts and the wounds of mothering will be healed forever because her Son, and her Savior – and ours - is risen with healing in his wings! (Malachi 4:2)