My second child was due on Christmas Eve. It made me feel kind of like Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Knowing how big and uncomfortable I would be during the whole month of December, I had all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving (the first and only time that ever happened!).
After that was out of the way, I had time to ponder what it must have been like for that young girl two thousand years ago. Mary was expecting a child when she wasn’t married.
Gabriel the archangel announced the coming of her baby, Jesus, and said that Mary was highly favored, blessed, chosen. Different from all the rest.
We only hear a few things about Mary’s life after Jesus was born. But they are enough to give us a glimpse into what kind of mother she became. The unique girl that God chose to be the mother of the Messiah must have some things to teach us about motherhood.
Here are four things that Mary did, and that we can do, to be great moms.
4 Things Great Moms Do
1. Provide a comforting presence in tough times
Your undivided, caring attention is what your children need most when times are tough for them. Put down the phone, stop everything, look into their eyes, give a hug. They need you really present with them, not just in the room.
We know Mary was a comforting presence at the cross when Jesus was dying (John 19:26).
A scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ shows us a couple of things that might also have taken place in Mary’s life as a mom.
In this scene, we watch Jesus carrying the cross down the narrow street in Jerusalem. He was struggling, in agony. Soldiers were trying to move him along with whips and the jeering crowd was yelling insults.
Jesus’ friends had abandoned him, except for a few that looked on sheepishly from a distance. Mary, grief-stricken, stood nearby trying not to watch her son drag himself to an early death.
As he’s straining to take each step, Jesus stumbles under the burden of the heavy cross. In that moment, we see a flashback from Mary’s perspective.
In the memory, Jesus is about two years old. He’s running along a dusty street in Nazareth and suddenly, he stumbles and falls.
A young mother at the time, Mary hurries to his side, like most mothers would. She lifts the crying toddler into her arms and rocks him reassuringly, saying, “I’m here”.
Now it’s Good Friday. Mary watches her grown son stagger and fall to the ground. His body is beaten and battered. He’s exhausted and weak.
Pushing through the chaos of the crowd, Mary rushes to his side, just as she did so many times when he was small. She crouches down next to him to comfort him. Once again, she whispers, “I’m here”.
I could relate to the profound distress Mary would have been feeling. I cried my eyes out the first time I watched that part of the movie! It’s what every loving mother feels when her children are enduring pain.
Even knowing ahead of time that being a mom means experiencing your child’s pain as they do, doesn’t diminish it. Mary was once told clearly and directly that she would suffer along with Jesus.
When she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised at eight days old, a prophet, Simeon had said to her,
“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many may be revealed”. (Luke 2: 34-35 NASB)
Our first instinct when our children are hurting is to make it all better. However, sometimes we can’t prevent their difficulties, nor should we.
We feel helpless, but it’s through difficulties that our children learn endurance, patience, independence, problem-solving and other valuable character traits that will prepare them for future challenges.
Most importantly, in hard seasons, our kids have the opportunity to trust God for themselves.
Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
Mary wasn’t supposed to prevent her son’s suffering and death on the cross, but she was there with her comforting presence. Maybe even whispering a quiet, “I’m here”. (John 19:25)
Your children need your warm, comforting presence more than anything when they are struggling and challenged.
2. Hope in God, not in outcomes
Optimism is the expectation of positive life circumstances. For instance, an optimistic person expects to avoid things like life-threatening diseases, serious accidents, etc.
None of us wants to suffer and we especially don’t want our children to suffer. However, life is difficult and bad things happen. That’s why we need hope, not just optimism.
Hope is trust in the fact that the love of God holds fast regardless of our tough situations.
God rules the world with benevolence and is watching carefully to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are his. (Romans 8:28)
If we are simply optimistic, challenges can derail us. If we’re truly hopeful in God’s care and concern no matter the situation, nothing can.
Mary was a hopeful, young girl and trusted God when she heard the fantastic messages about Jesus’ future. Gabriel said,
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33 NASB)
Did Mary expect that Jesus would reign on a physical throne in Jerusalem? Most of his followers did. What a disappointment for those whose optimistic expectations weren’t met.
From what we can tell, Mary, was not angry at God or let down when Jesus didn’t reign on a physical throne in Jerusalem.
From the very beginning, we read that she trusted God for even the most unbelievable thing – that a virgin could bear a child.
It’s evident that she trusted God for the rest of the story as well, even when things seemed bleak. After Jesus died, he rose again and is reigning on a heavenly throne. Her hope in God’s word and his love was rewarded.
We naturally have positive expectations for great futures for our kids – and we should. However, life doesn’t go the way we desire, how will we respond?
If we hope in God’s love and his good plan, we have a rock-solid foundation. Despite any of the challenges that we and our children will face in life – sickness, accidents, relationship trouble – this foundation will never crumble.
3. Listen and learn
Several years ago, when I was going through a particularly tough time, one of my sons sent me a song called, “Believe Me Now” by Steven Curtis Chapman.
It’s a song that reminds us that we can believe God’s promises no matter what. It was exactly the reminder I needed at that moment. It touched my heart deeply and changed my perspective from fear to faith.
Jesus was Mary’s son, but also her Teacher.
Once when Jesus was teaching a large crowd, someone told him that his mother and brothers were outside trying to get in. Instead of bringing them front and center, Jesus said,
“My mother and brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21)
In our culture that sounds harsh but was it? Maybe Mary had begun to understand that Jesus was born for a mission that was far beyond her family.
He was her savior as well as her son. The Bible tells us that she was a believer in Jesus as Messiah with the rest of the disciples. (Acts 1:14)
Even small children can say and do things that teach us important lessons. If we’ll humble ourselves and listen, God can use them to give us encouragement, insight and comfort.
Our children might even grow up to be people who change the world with their unique gifting and calling. We can be the first in line to benefit from all they will offer.
4. Let go a little at a time
The moment your child is born you have to start letting go.
It’s not that obvious during the first few years since our kids are so dependent on us. But once they start to venture out into the world, even if it’s only to preschool, we face a challenge.
We have to trust that they will be all right in the care of others. We have to trust that we have given them the tools to navigate on their own.
One day they are learning how to tie their own shoes. Blink and you’re giving them the car keys. Blink again and they’re moving out!
Each step is a challenge for them and for us.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary with the baby announcement, she knew Jesus would be like no other child ever conceived. However, she still had to learn day by day that his calling and mission superseded his role as her son.
When Jesus was twelve, he stayed behind by himself in the temple at Jerusalem after the feast. His parents frantically searched for days for him after they realized he was missing from the traveling caravan.
When they found him, he was surprised that they didn’t know where he would be. He had to be in his Father’s house. (Luke 2:41-50) He was on a mission from God.
Mary had to let go.
About ten years later, Jesus told the listening crown that whoever hears his words and does them are his family, not just those he grew up with. (Luke 8:19-21)
Mary had to let go.
On that dark Good Friday, Mary’s first-born was fulfilling the purpose for his life which was announced by Gabriel decades before.
He was dragging his cross up to a lonely hill. He was dying, just as he planned.
Mary had to let go.
Our children are gifts from God, but they don’t really belong to us. They belong to God and he has a reason for their lives above and beyond the blessing they bring to our families.
They have a mission from God.
Mary was the most important mother who ever walked the face of the earth. Yet, in many ways, she was a mother just like us. She felt the same love, joy, fears, concerns and helplessness that we all do.
Mary learned to mother well. She’s a strong, loving, faithful example that we can look to for guidance on our own journey of motherhood.
The famous Serenity Prayer fits this “Mary mindset” perfectly.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as he did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that he will make all things right
if I surrender to his will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with him
forever in the next.
I would love to hear the lessons you’ve learned as a mother. Please comment below.
If this post has been helpful, please share!