We received some stressful news last week and it’s become a big lesson for me in Trust. In short, our landlord has plans to sell the house we are living in, so we have to find a new home sooner than we’d anticipated. It’s also teaching me Detachment in a big way: over the past two and a half years, I’ve made a nice home, finally relaxing into a sense of security in the past year, and now I’m being asked to give that all up. Thanks be to God!
I don’t really like it, I’ll be honest. I’m forcing myself to praise the Lord and give thanks, but it’s not coming naturally. I have noticed, though, that the more I forget myself and the more I praise Him, the happier I feel. It’s a bit like eating vegetables, though: I know they make me feel better, but I struggle to make myself eat them. Chocolate cake tastes so much better, and wallowing in worry has a similar weird appeal.
I was going to write through my feelings in my journal, but felt prompted to pray the rosary instead. My go-to set of mysteries is the Joyful Mysteries, the only ones I knew as a kid, so I would say those ones over and over again. They’re “my” mysteries. While I like the other ones, too, the Joyful are the ones I feel most at home with.
It occurred to me, while praying this morning, that “Joyful” is rather a strange appellation for this set of Mysteries. Had Mary not been her incredibly admirable self–had she been more like me–these mysteries would most certainly have been called the Stressful Mysteries. They’re basically proof that Mary was utterly amazing. Let’s break this down, for the sake of illumination:
The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
A young woman, engaged to be married, is asked to conceive the Son of God.
- Visited by a terrifying non-corporeal heavenly being. Stressful. You try not being afraid when the supernatural comes knocking at your door!
- Unmarried and pregnant. Stressful. Couldn’t you have at least waited until I was securely placed in marriage?? How important is proof of this virgin birth anyway? I thought you said you loved ME and this is not helping ME right now in any way.
- My betrothed may not look too kindly on this baby that’s not his. Stressful.
- Possibility of being stoned to death for conceiving out of wedlock. Great idea, Lord.
- Mother to the Son of GOD: ha! ha! um… can’t even.
The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
Unmarried young woman in the first trimester of her first pregnancy ever travels to visit her pregnant cousin.
- I don’t know about you, but I spent as much of the first trimester of my first pregnancy in bed.
- Travel while pregnant on foot. Stressful.
- Exhaustion on account of tiny, miraculous parasite. Overwhelming.
- Morning sickness. NOT FUN.
- Body changes. Whaaaaat?
- Prospect of returning home with an increasing and imminently noticeable belly.
The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity
Young woman arrives in foreign city about to give birth. Gives birth in a place where animals are kept.
- Moving before giving birth. Stressful. Also, I don’t care who you are, nobody wants to be riding on a donkey for days when you’re nine months pregnant and about to give birth.
- Finally arrive in Bethlehem, but there was no internet to make room reservations in advance, so gotta trust God will find us something. In fact, the entire city is over-full thanks to this census. What happened to this whole “God will provide” thing? Couldn’t he have figured out an easier way to have his kid born in Bethlehem?
- A stable?? This is not living in the manner to which I have become accustomed, Lord.
- Couldn’t we have brought my mummy to help? I am about to give birth and some lady I’ve never met is the only person here to assist with the birth. Goodbye, privacy and comfort!
- Wait, what? I just gave birth–NO RANDOM VISITORS. FAMILY AND FRIENDS ONLY. Please don’t touch the baby. Someone let me sleep? Is there any place to take a shower? Please leave: I actually just want to lie in the straw naked doing skin-to-skin and inhaling my new baby.
- Could someone turn down the volume on those angels? And that star is shining way too brightly.
- Joseph, do you mind shoveling that manure out of here?
- WTF nobody told me breastfeeding would be so un-intuitive!!! Please use your omniscient powers to nurse, little baby!!
- Bleeding everywhere. So gross. So gross. Your design is so icky, Lord.
The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation
New mother brings her firstborn son to be consecrated to the Lord and circumcised.
- They’re going to cut my baby. It’s going to be ok. —I can’t stand hearing him cry!!
- Have you people ever heard of unsolicited advice? How does having a baby make you a target of every stranger’s passing remarks?
- A sword? My baby? Old man, please… I don’t need this right now. I can hardly handle my baby getting a pinprick. Please don’t tell me there’s worse to come. I’m postpartum hormonal and I really don’t want to cry in public.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding in the Temple
Twelve-year-old son has been missing for three days. He’s found in the Temple back in Jerusalem.
- You are SO grounded.
- What the heck do you think you’re doing preaching to these old men? They want wisdom? Tell them to talk to your mother next time!
- Lord, I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve been having constant panic attacks. How could you do this to your mother??
- We left the city! We told you we were leaving! How on God’s green earth did you think it was acceptable to stay behind?
- You may be God, but in human terms you are only twelve years old. You haven’t even hit puberty yet. You aren’t growing up that fast!
- I’m going to need about three days to sit on the couch and recover from the shock you just gave me, young man.
- Where is chocolate when I need it?
As you can see, I am a long way from being the Blessed Virgin Mary. The mere responsibility of being the mother of God is terrifying to think of. I feel overwhelmed and unprepared just raising my merely human children. Mama Mary was clearly AMAZING. No joke that she was FULL of grace. You can’t do this kind of stuff unless you’re full of grace.
The good news is, everyone can be filled with grace. The more we surrender ourselves to God, the more he can fill us with His grace.
I still love the image of Our Lady of Grace that a priest once expounded on personally for me: he pointed out that her hand are open, not clenched. Grace can’t be poured into and through clenched hands. God won’t force our hands open to receive grace, but as a kindly Father will invite us and urge us to loosen our grip. Let go, let God.