Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mary's reflections

It's important to take the time to think. One of the things I enjoy about writing this blog is that it forces me to focus my thoughts enough to say something. Left to myself I often find that I've spent my requisite half hour in my recliner in the morning without direction. I've read something out of my Bible, but then I sit and stare out the window. My eyes and my mind go unfocused until I realize that it's time to get moving again. Lately that's been a good thing -- staring out the window watching snowflakes drift down in the pines is about as relaxing as it gets. But if every morning has that unfocused quality I find that the discipline of my early morning pondering doesn't do me -- or anyone else -- much good.

So I love to ponder in a focused way, and writing helps me to do that. In that practice, Mary is one of my best role models. Luke tells us repeatedly that Mary "treasured up all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). As I've said before on this blog, I have a hunch Mary was one of Luke's best sources when he decided to write his gospel. My guess is that Mary was one of those people who recognized that it's hard to tell the meaning of events while they are happening. She treasured them up and pondered them, knowing that understanding often comes years later. So maybe at the time the shepherds' visit -- or even the angel's announcement about this baby's birth -- didn't make so much sense. We get a few of the relevant details that point directly to the meaning of Jesus' birth. What we don't hear about in Luke 1-2 is all the other stuff that happened. Mary's life without a doubt was cluttered with daily household management, conversations about a thousand different topics, the confusion and consternation of a first pregnancy, and who knows what else. But she stored up the details and pondered them until reflection began to make sense out of the events.

Often people ask me why God was so obvious in the Bible but it seems so hard to hear him today. I think this matter is at the heart of the answer. With Moses, for instance, we hear about one twenty-minute conversation he had with God on the mountainside one day when this bush refused to burn up. We don't hear about all the other details of Moses' life that threatened to overwhelm the voice of God. The trouble is, in our own lives we have to deal with the details. So often the chaotic everyday stuff does overwhelm us and we fail to recognize God's voice. That's why Mary's habit of reflecting is such a good example for us. We need to learn to treasure up the times when God shows up, ponder them, and let the Spirit of God speak meaning into our lives.

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