Regarding Mary

Every year around Christmas I begin to think about, and usually write about, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Lately, however, I've been thinking a LOT about her. So much so that I've taken to reading books about her and trying to learn all I can about her life. I've always been puzzled as to why this magnificent woman that God chose to be the vessel in which to bring forth the Christ is talked about so little in the Protestant faith, and why whenever she is mentioned, we are always reminded that she was just an ordinary woman....nothing special.

I sort of get the feeling that God disagrees.

Of all the women on the planet, at one particular time in history, God created one woman named Mary who He had set aside to be the Mother of His Son. He chose HER. He didn't send angel-messengers to 2 or 3 different girls to see who'd say yes. He chose ONE. From the moment of Mary's conception, He knew that she was the one He wanted. His hand was on her life and He guided her to the very moment when the angel appeared and said, "Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women." ("highly favored" means "full of grace" (Favor, Favored: to endow with charis, Luk 1:28, "highly favored" (marg., "endued with grace") Verb Strong's Number: g5487 Greek: charitoo)

God endued Mary with grace. The grace it would take for her to take on one of the most emotionally wrenching jobs in the universe. I am constantly amazed at the lowly place in which we put her. She was not just one of many extraordinary women in the Bible. She was the actual Mother of our Lord. He grew in her belly and she birthed him and nursed him and worried over him.

And yet she is relegated in Protestant books and sermons as just a really cool gal who agreed to be the surrogate for God. Some Evangelical commentators and theologians are flat out rude when it comes to Mary -- honestly I became embarrassed and a little angry when reading some opinions of the very Mother of God.

Growing up, whenever I asked about Mary, I was told that she was just a vessel. Just a person. Just a pawn in God's plan.

I disagree. I think she is a pretty amazing, loving woman who deserves our honor and our love.

And I cannot, for the life of me, find anywhere in scripture that Mary points to anyone but to Jesus. In her Magnificat, Mary says that her soul "magnifies" the Lord.

[mag-nuh-fahy] verb, -fied, -fy·ing. verb (used with object)
1. to increase the apparent size of, as a lens does.
2. to make greater in actual size; enlarge: to magnify a drawing in preparing for a fresco.
3. to cause to seem greater or more important; attribute too much importance to; exaggerate: to magnify one's difficulties.
4. to make more exciting; intensify; dramatize; heighten: The playwright magnified the conflict to get her point across.
5. Archaic . to extol; praise: to magnify the Lord.

Luke 1:46-55 (KJV)

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
(bolding mine)

And yet, we don't call her blessed.

We don't call her anything.

The gospel is all about the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Mary was present at all three events. As a matter of fact, Mary was a vital part of each stage. Mary's "yes" to God was a "yes" to all of us.

Yes, I will carry the Son of God. (Luke 1:38)

Yes, I will be a mother to every believer. (John 19:26-27; though many argue that Jesus was only referring to John specifically, others believe all believers are disciples and therefore this transfer of maternity belongs to all of us.)
Maternal love and nurture is something vital to every single person on the planet. Without a mother's touch there is suffering. Without a mother's milk there is starvation. Without the love of a mother, the human psyche is forever damaged.

I will never know the truth of the mysteries of Mary until I get to Heaven and learn of it all...but until then I will honor her as the Mother of my Lord.

And I will call her blessed.

Birth Control. Gulp.

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition, there are several things that baffled me throughout the years. My parents didn't like it when I questioned them....they usually either brushed me off completely or they just finished the conversation with "because we're right." This parenting technique was an easy out for them, but for me it created even more questions. Why didn't they want to talk to me about this stuff? To me, they were are important questions. Theological questions. Questions that might make me -gasp- call into question some of my family's long held beliefs.

One of these questions was on the issue of birth control. I know, I know.....a hot button topic right now. I suppose all the news coverage of birth control recently has stirred up some of those thoughts. But really.......what about it?

Back in college, I recall Dr. Raman C. Murthy stunning me during a lecture when he stated that birth control pills worked by preventing ovulation (which I knew) but he went on to say that oral contraceptives also changed the cervical mucus to make it more unhospitable for sperm. Additionally, and most alarming to me, was that in the case of fertilization, the pill would alter the endometrial lining, thus making it impossible for the newly formed embryo to implant.

Say whaaaaat?

So if I actually ovulate, and the sperm is capable of swimming through thickened cervical mucus with an unfavorable pH, and said sperm and my newly ovulated ovum have a meet and greet.......then my new little embryo will die because it has no place to rest it's little head?

That smelled fishy to me.

So I gathered up pharmaceutical inserts and read the news from the manufacturers themselves. This was in the 1980's, before the internet and RxList, which gave me this summarization today:
Combination Oral Contraceptives

Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).

Last reviewed on RxList: 12/28/2007
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Raman C. Murthy wasn't lying to me.

How long had I been operating under the assumption that birth control was ok? Yup, my whole life. My mom used birth control. She had a tubal ligation after her last baby, at age 37. As I grew into adulthood, everyone I knew, Southern Baptist or not, used birth control.

Then I began reading the Bible and I started having even more questions.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.....your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13, 16

Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward. As arrows [are] in the hand of a mighty man; so [are] children of the youth. Happy [is] the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Commit your way to the LORD. Psalm 37:5

What I read and discovered was that life began at the moment that egg and sperm meet (I know, I know, some people totally disagree. For those, however, I can only suppose one never had an early ultrasound or saw life unfolding right before your eyes under a microscope.)

I discovered that God had created every human being on the planet in His mind long before they were created in a woman's womb. (And I was taught that God was soverign and made absolutely NO if He intended to create them, and we stopped His creation, then where does that leave us? I suppose placing ourselves up there WITH God. No, that couldn't be...)

I read that God considered each child a reward. A blessing.

I learned that He knows more than me. (Duh.)

And so I went on with my adult life, never really discussing these issues with anyone because I was always met with a blank stare and realized that, like my parents, no one wanted to discuss birth control.

Fortunately, I married a man who agreed with me. So we reproduced three gorgeous, witty, precious children.

And then, at the age of 41, I had my tubes tied.

It's true. I was hesitant, but succumbed to pressure from my OB, who was a nervous wreck for 30 weeks at the thought of a 41 year old woman who had had a uterine rupture with her last delivery. He announced at each visit "Jennifer!! You are 40, for goodness sake!! You can't have any more kids!!" And I had my mom all worried about it and other family members telling me that I really didn't need more kids.

I was sad, but in my intellectual mind, they were right.


My biggest regret in life, I tell you. Ask any young woman I work with what my advice is when they say they are done having kids. "Don't do anything permanent. You never know how your heart might change."

I live each day knowing that I took control of my body in a way that I'm sure makes God cringe. When I get to heaven, I often wonder if He will show me all the blessings He had for me....but that I refused to accept, because I thought I knew better. Than Him. Seriously.

We lived at a southern Baptist seminary for 4 years while my husband studied. There, I was surrounded by women who used birth control religiously (pun intended) because they were waiting for husbands to finish their MDiv's or write their dissertations. I was astounded by the number of what those outside the gates would call "godly women" that didn't give God credit for knowing better than them how many children He created for them. It was so incredibly sad. Abortion, to be sure, was murder in their eyes. But to ingest a known abortofacient daily was ok. Which led me to think mabye they didn't believe life begins at conception?

I had one discussion with a fellow seminary wife who said "Yes, but God gives us free will to make these kinds of decisions for ourselves."


I mean, yes, we could go out and do whatever we desire because of that free will. But do we do it? I venture to say no, no we don't. Our actions stem from our beliefs. Why would I do something that I know is sin if I claim to believe that Jesus died a cruel death on a cross for my sins because of His love for me? Does that even make sense?

So when I read the papers and watch the news and read 894 threads on Facebook about birth control and government and who should pay for what, my heart is re-ignited to encourage women to trust in the Lord with all their hearts, and to not lean on their own understanding of what's best for them. Trust in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Paul says in Ephesians that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Just because we can't imagine more children doesn't mean that He doesn't have a plan that is better than yours.

Because He is, after all, God.

And He really is smarter than you.