It's probably not surprising that I'm thinking of mothers today. After a week in which my main activity was thinking about, caring for, listening to my poor old demented mother, the relative peace and quiet of my own living room, next to a warm, burning fire, keeps falling away and I am back in a hospital or nursing home room, watching Mom pick at her blankets compulsively, with a confused expression on her face.
So it's a good day to think about moms, one in particular. Several years ago, I went to see a counselor, for the first and only time in my life. I was feeling very blocked in my writing, a little too exhausted, and thought it might help to talk to someone objective. Within the first 20 minutes of that first visit, however, the counselor was asking me about my mother. I suppose therapists and counselors often assume any problem starts there, which doesn't bode well for my children, though I've often told them, when I've refused to let them do something they wanted, that I'm simply giving them something to talk to a counselor about. Anyway, through the therapy of that spring, I realized that I had an idea of the kind of mother I'd always wanted, and had both written her and become her. But those two things hadn't actually taken away the sense that my mother wasn't the right one. I don't say this with pride, you must understand, but actually feel badly that I never quite accepted that God knew what He was doing in giving me the mother I have.
So what would the ideal mother look like? When I was thinking about this this morning, I realized that Mary comes pretty close. It isn't that we have a full picture of her, just little antecdotes stuck into the creases of His life. But I easily fill in the gaps.
These are the things I know about her:
She was favored above all women, though probably for reasons we can never fully understand. She was an ordinary girl from an ordinary town, and the favor rested on her because of God's goodness and will, not her own.
She trusted her husband to care for her, even in the worst of nights, in a cave. And she trusted that man when he carried her off to a foreign land. She recognized that God spoke to Joseph as well as to her.
She actually listened to God however He spoke, to old prophets, to Joseph, to her cousin. And she treasured what God had done and would do.
She worried about her son--from the beginning to the end of His life.
She knew what that Son was capable of. Right on the cusp of Jesus' public ministry, Mary and Jesus (and maybe the rest of the family) were at a wedding, a louder and more celebratory wedding than had apparently been planned for. The host ran out of wine, the staple drink of the day. Apparently this was a big deal because even a guest at the wedding--Mary--knew enough about it that she was concerned and wanted to help. Her solution was to talk to her son about it. "Do something," she told Jesus. Now it's possible that she simply wanted her oldest son to run to the local Safeway and buy a few more cases of wine to help out. Maybe it was the wedding of a cousin and Mary felt some responsibility for it.
But from Jesus' reaction, I think Mary knew something different about her son--about His abilities, about His character,--I think she knew who He was, so she was not merely asking Him to produce more bottles of wine, but to intervene supernaturally. It makes me think that though this is the first recorded miracle of Jesus, it wasn't the first time He'd done one. It makes me wonder how Mary might have seen His Father in Jesus as He grew to be a man. Don't mothers often look for family resemblances in their children? I sure do. I can tell you exactly how my children remind me of the Beve--SK the same kind of morning person who loves relationships, J the one who has his father's eyes, his father's tender but just heart, E a steady, unruffled, broad handed do-er like the Beve. So Mary, I think, saw all the ways Jesus resembled His Father. She saw enough to know that when a crisis arose, even a material one like running out of drink at a wedding, Jesus would be able to help.
Jesus, in this scene, reminds me a lot of my son. When asked to take care of this problem, He first said, the tiniest bit exasperated, "Oh Mom, why did you come to me? It's not time for my ministry of signs and wonders yet." But, a mother who knows her child, knows that behind the protests, He'll do what she asks. So Mary heard his reluctance, but knew He'd take care of the matter, and told the servants, "Do whatever Jesus tells you." So my son sometimes drags his feet when I ask him to do something, but (usually!) does what I ask eventually (though perhaps not as promptly as Jesus! Big surprise!).
Well, you know the result. Jesus takes ordinary water and turns it into wine--the best wine at the wedding. Maybe the best wine ever made. It only took an instant, and there's no record that He even touched those barrels of water. No, He simply said the word and it was accomplished. "Pour out what's in the barrels and take it to the host." By the time the banquet master tasted the water, it was wine. That simple, that fast. And all the guests were awed by the taste, which they didn't even know was the first of Jesus' miraculous signs.
Jesus didn't do this thing in order to proclaim His divinity. He didn't ask for publicity about it. He was only doing what His mother had asked. Simply to please her. He didn't always please her, you know. Later when she and the other kids showed up where Jesus was preaching and wanted to speak to Him, he turned it into an opportunity to talk about the obedience of all people. It wasn't that He didn't care about His earthly mother, but more that He was interested in all people. We know He loved His mother by the way He made special mention of her from the cross. In the last moments before His death, knowing the future (even the resurrected future) would leave her without Him, He asked John and Mary to become son and mother in His place.
She never stopped loving Him, even when He grew up and had other concerns, had complete faith in Him, stood with Him in the darkest of hours, and didn't turn her eyes from the ghastly sight of her beloved child bleeding from His hands and feet, gulping for whatever breath He could get as He died a violent death. This is the kind of mother I dream of, the kind of parent I wish to be. Nothing He did, nothing He said, nothing He went through was enough for her to forsake Him. She was the first person to have complete faith in Him, and the last person to leave Him. I don't only want to be this kind of mother to my children, but have this exact love for Jesus Himself. No matter how strange His requests, how confusing His words, I pray that I can be Mary, trusting and waiting for Him to work. For Him to live, for Him to be who He is.