The nurse’s name was Angel. She could see I was struggling, losing my focus, buckling under contracting pain. She leaned over the hospital-bed rail, gripped my chin and put her nose to mine.
“You can do this,” she ordered like a metronome who paced the breaths of one so wide-eyed and unsure.
Nine minutes later, on a Friday afternoon in 2001, a baby girl was born. And so was a mother.
My pain disappeared — but only for a time. Because love like this? It hurts.
Someone once said that having a baby “is to forever decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” A cousin gave us a framed print with those words shortly after our baby was born. But I didn’t understand what it meant until we left the hospital with this human soul to feed and nurture.
I cried most of the way home that day, my heart swelling with both joy and fear. This was dangerous love, letting a heart go walking around like this.
Because when a woman becomes a mother, her heart is suddenly and completely vulnerable.
The only means for survival? Grace …
When I think of Grace, I think of Mary, Mother of the God-Man.
Mary, full of grace.
With newborn resting in her arms, the new mama treasured and pondered the beauty of Bethlehem. Thirty-three years later, she watched her son die on Calvary.
But Mary didn’t have to wait for Calvary to watch her heart go a-walkin’. She had to relent control almost from the start.
Days after Bethlehem, an old man in the temple held Miniature Messiah. He looked Mary straight in the eye:
“A sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
The Catholics call this the first of the Seven Sorrows. Mary would endure more. Later, she lost Jesus, age 12, at the temple. Her son grew up a wanderer. He befriended the worst of sinners. He infuriated religious leaders.
Did Mary stay quiet when people rejected Him, including her neighbors, friends and relatives? How often did Mary show up at the market to find huddles of whispering women, glancing over shoulders at her, a dirt-poor mother of a carpenter who couldn’t even afford a proper lamb for her son’s consecration? (She and Joseph brought two pigeons instead.)
And when Mama, full of grace, wanted to see her son? Jesus made her wait.
At the wedding, her beloved son called her Woman. Why not Mama?
Mary needed the fullness of grace at the foot of a cross, but she needed it as a mother, too.
I wonder how often the Old Man’s words echoed in her spirit:
Sword to the soul.
Sword to the soul.
Sword to the soul.
Mary’s heart had gone walking around outside her body, to be pierced and pierced again.
And then came the nails.
She watched her heart go walking straight up a hill with a cross on His back. The woman who birthed Grace watched Him die.
Mama was the first to join with Christ in his sufferings. Behold the man on the cross: Her baby grew up to become her Savior.
O Lord, my Savior,
You are the Christ, being formed daily in me. But will I, like Mary, birth grace to join with you in your sufferings? She saw you in your fullness — as more than her Son but as her Savior. Lord, help me to see you in the fullness of who you are — not just a friend or a healer or a counselor or a comforter. You, my Lord, are Savior.
I explore grace today with L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone. Would you join the conversation at Seedlings in Stone? She’s hosting a giveaway of Scot McKnight’s book: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. Leave a comment there by 6 p.m. EST on Thursday for a chance to win.
Photo of Lydia, six days old.
Photo of painting, “Sword Will Pierce Your Heart,” used with permission by artist, Daniel Bonnell. (Visit his online gallery of stunning Christian art.)