Driving up into the mountains yesterday, I thought about the long trek a pregnant child took on the back of a pack animal. It's hard enough to sit comfortably in a car, buckled into place, good springs in the seats and ball bearings in the frame. But jostled on the back of a donkey, legs dangling, feeling every step, every bump on the rocky road? I can't imagine.
But she did it. It wasn't cold when Mary took that journey. We know that. She didn't gaze at mountains 'dusted with baby powder' (as SK used to call the light snow when she was little). That's what the lower hills looked like out the windows of our Highlander. The taller mountains in the distance were shrouded with clouds but once as we passed a valley, we saw the blue white peaks of the Cascades standing against the sky.
Mary made her way through a different landscape. Her journey wasn't on a paved highway, rimmed with evergreens. The geography of her life contrasts with mine in every way imaginable.
And yet, I have often identified with Mary. Every woman who loves Jesus can identify with her. I used to think it was merely mothers. Any woman who has born a child knows what it is to hold the whole world inside her body. But it's also true that every woman who loves him, young, old, mothers or not, who bears Him inside herself shares her story. At least in small part. We are His handmaidens. We are His to do with as He well. We must be. It's our story as believers.
See, I started thinking, as I often have, about how Mary is the first best disciple of Jesus. How we who are on the highway of following Him, must find our way, at least in part, by looking at the women of the gospels. It's good enough to look at the disciples, true. But not enough. At least not for me. I also want--for myself, for my daughters--to look at the women. At Mary, at Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha, and the other Mary (could they have possibly have found some other name, PLEASE?). I want to find my place alongside the women of Acts like Tabitha (or Dorcas, as her name was in the Greek), who was "always doing good and helping the poor." Peter raised her from the dead in Acts chapter 9. Or of Lydia (Acts 16), or Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Persis from Paul's greetings at the end or Romans.
And these words of Paul's in Philippians 4 (2-3) are helpful in my discipleship--"I plead with Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, to ask these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." Because we contend together for the gospel we are called to unity. No matter what. It isn't about personal or political or educational views, it's about contending for HIS gospel that we must be of the same mind. The rest falls away on the face of this; that is, it makes no difference. I need these words. I need to be told these words.
Yes, I am a woman and I am a disciple. I travel toward the mountains where the air is rarefied. Only a few of us travel it. No matter what the geography looks like outwardly, the road is far more like the journey Mary took on the back of that donkey than the one I took yesterday in the comfort of our car. We travel to the place where we will discover Him, where He will be born in us, not simply symbolically, as we celebrated two days ago, but fully and completely. I long for this. "My joy and my crown," as Paul says in the first words of Philippians 4.