The Secret Words In The Heart Of A Mother
Published: March 19, 2009
Most life stories of great men open with their births. But in the case of the greatest man ever born, a man who was also God, the story starts with the actual moment of his conception.
And what a poignant moment it was, when an angel told a young girl that she would bear a son and call him “Jesus.” We can imagine her tangle of emotions at hearing this news.
She had to know that she was in danger of being harshly criticized. In fact, in her day, an unmarried woman who became pregnant faced death by stoning.
So when Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” she was in effect saying, “I am willing to face death.”
Mary had plenty of reasons to tell the angel “Go away. Ask someone else.” She could have said, “I’m too young.” Or “I’m not married.” She certainly could have said, “I’m afraid!”
She obviously could have used many of the reasons that women rely on today when they decide to say “no” to a pregnancy: “I’m too poor” or “I’m too young” or “I’m unmarried” or “I have other plans.”
Talk about the ultimate unplanned pregnancy: This was what Mary faced!
It is very likely that many readers of this article are the results of unplanned pregnancies. Some may have been conceived after their parents had decided their family was big enough. Maybe others were conceived because Mom thought she was past childbearing days, and then: Surprise!
But even if a pregnancy is unplanned and comes as a shock to the parents, here is the important part: There is no unplanned life.
You see, God doesn’t create any child accidentally because God doesn’t make mistakes. So even if we stunned our parents, we certainly didn’t surprise God.
And the feast of the Annunciation reminds us of the old saying that “God writes straight with crooked lines.”
Here are some crooked lines in the life of Christ: His mother was very young, and she wasn’t married. But God had everything straightened out to protect Mary, so that Christ would be born nine months later.
God sent an angel to let Joseph know in a dream that Mary’s account of her pregnancy was true. And because Joseph accepted God’s plan and married Mary, she avoided social ostracism and stoning.
There are crooked lines in every life. In my own, my mother had a miscarriage before bearing my older sister, and my sister’s birth was long and dangerous. So arduous, in fact, that the doctors sternly warned my mother against having more children.
And then, on a day near Thanksgiving in Chicago, where my parents were visiting family, my story began: I was conceived in my mother’s womb. And I have to believe that my mother, Grace, had very mixed emotions when the doctors confirmed that she was pregnant.
After all, as she looked into the future, she saw another arduous delivery and maybe even death. But she went ahead and had the baby, the one she named Lorraine with Grace as a middle name.
Obviously, St. Luke could have begun the story of Christ’s life with his birth in the stable, rather than nine months earlier at his conception. But it was not by accident that he opened the narrative where he did.
He was following God’s plan when he wrote the narrative of Christ’s life, and was guided by the Holy Spirit to tell the truth with a capital T.
And that Truth is this: Christ’s life started just like every life begins. The Word was made flesh not in a hospital room, not in an inn, not in a stable.
Instead, God became man in a womb at the very moment Mary said “yes.”
And that womb had to be nurturing and protective, just as the wombs that brought each of us into the world.
Perhaps a reason that Christ’s story begins at conception is to bring a message to a world in which the womb is no longer a safe haven.
Perhaps it is to remind us that the most beautiful words in the world are not those spoken at the birth of a baby when the doctor pronounces the child alive and healthy.
Instead, the most exquisite words are the little veiled conversation that goes on in the heart of the mother many months earlier, when she first learns that she is pregnant.
The loveliest words of all come despite inconvenience, despite having other plans, despite being too young or too old, despite being too poor, despite being scared, despite being unmarried, despite being afraid of death.
The most beautiful words of all come at the moment when the mother whispers to God: “Let it be.” And that’s where the story begins.
The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Readers may write them at email@example.com.