The Second Day of Christmas: A Virgin Deep in Thought

December 27, 2013

One of the delightful side-stories to my cancer journey is about getting to know my caregivers. All my doctors (medical oncologist, radiology oncologist, and surgeon) are women with unique and distinguished backgrounds. After this morning, I will have seen all three within a week, and each has provided good information to me even as they have stayed in close touch with each other. It is more than comforting to know how well they collaborate and how they have kept me briefed on progress, decision-points, and options.

My family and I met with the surgeon on Tuesday to discuss the next steps. You can read in detail about that meeting here. What I want to lift up today is another little detail in my experience that is both amusing and heartwarming. And of course it has pointed me again to Scripture and Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that my surgeon is not only pregnant, but that her baby is due in less than two weeks! I don’t know how this detail slipped past me earlier (although most times I have seen the surgeon have been in the Operating Room, with other things on our minds!) It will be her second child, her first being 21 months old. There was obvious relevance to our discussion, regarding the scheduling of my lung surgery and the timing of her baby’s arrival. We got that all worked out, but in the course of the discussion two mothers understood each other. It got me to thinking about another woman whose pregnancy rocked her world and had significant implications for others. We are talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:27-38 records for us Mary’s encounter with the angel, who announced to her the impending birth of “the Son of the Most High.” Upon hearing the angel’s greeting, Luke says, “[Mary] was much perplexed and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” An out-from-left-field assignment from God was received by the young maiden with calm curiosity. She first listened to the message that Gabriel brought her. She asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”—a logical question I could picture myself posing in her shoes. Upon hearing the explanation, Mary said, “OK, I’m in; let it be as you have said.” Three steps in a progression of acceptance:  pondering, processing, and participating.

When women get pregnant a lot of pondering begins the process of embracing the new reality. Depending on how one is feeling about the turn of events—shocked, happy, fearful, resigned, thankful—there is a lot to think about. Today’s young mothers know within days of suspecting a pregnancy whether they are indeed “with child,” and Mary in our story also knew immediately because the angel told her what was happening. Mary had a full nine months to treasure rich thoughts, uncertainties, and plans in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Pregnancy is a time for reflection, for dreaming, for being honest before God.

A pregnancy also requires some planning and processing:  When is the baby due? Can I work until the baby comes? Will the baby be healthy, and how can I take care of myself to assure that he or she will be okay? What kind of prenatal care will I need? How is my husband doing with all of this? Or in Mary’s case, what will my betrothed (Joseph) think of me now? The feelings overwhelm as a new reality sets in: we are now taking into account the existence of another human being and creating an environment in which the little one can flourish.

There comes a point in pregnancy when a mom is reassured that things are off to a healthy start and fears of miscarriage, for instance, abate. Notification is given to family and friends, a new wardrobe is arranged, and preparations are made for baby’s arrival. And by the end of nine months, all a mother wants to do is give birth, having overcome any fear or trepidation in favor of a longing for physical comfort and a normal body once again.

I know I have taken a risk here of losing my male readers, with all this talk of a unique female experience. But here let me expand just a bit to include you, gentlemen. The fact is, we are all at one time or another given a new assignment that takes priority over the day-to-day responsibilities we have. How we handle the duty change is affected by our relationship with the one issuing the call, our ability to ponder, process, and participate in something that was not our idea, and opening ourselves to God’s sovereign will. This whole concept has been put to the test in my new reality: having cancer and shifting my efforts away from business as usual to a healing process that could take months, if not years. (I’m hoping for the former, just as a matter of record!) For you it may be an assignment to give attention to a special-needs kid or getting your workplace out of financial trouble. But whatever your new assignment, Mary’s example suggests that entering into it in a reflective mood, asking good questions of God, and yielding to God’s gracious hand are all part of the healthy Christian life.

On this second day of Christmas, let us stop for a moment and reflect thoughtfully upon the call of God on our lives. Let us embrace the (new?) assignment God has given us, and participate in the plan that requires our full attention, our greatest effort, and our most joyful dependence upon the One for whom “nothing is impossible.” Though circumstances may catch us by surprise, we can expect our “How can this be?” questions to be answered in good time, accompanied by God’s power to work through them. And then, with a full and cooperative heart, we can join Mary in saying, “May it done with me according to [God’s] word!”

 

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