On Mary and Waiting…

Advent is all about waiting. We wait, with joyful anticipation, for the birth of Jesus. However, the kind of waiting that takes place in Advent is somewhat unique. Usually with any kind of wait, there is a measure of anxiety associated with it. We wonder how exactly it will turn out, or if the thing we are waiting on will even happen at all. There is excitement, but there is worry as well.

But not so much with Advent. We are waiting, yes, but we know what is going to happen. Jesus will be born, Jesus will be crucified and die, and most importantly, Jesus will rise again and destroy death forever. So then, Advent waiting becomes joyful anticipation. There is no anxiety in waiting on the Christ child, because we know what will happen, we know that he will happen.

Mary, however, did not experience the “Advent” of her pregnancy with joyful anticipation. Or rather, not with only joyful anticipation. Imagine: a young virgin, betrothed, but not to consummate, is found to be pregnant in a time and culture which kills unmarried women for being pregnant. She knows the truth of who her child is, and where He has come from, but to all others, her story is insane.

Imagine the rumors that must have flown around about young Mary. That she and Joseph just couldn’t wait and were horrible sinners, or worse, that perhaps she had been raped by a Roman soldier, and had created this tale in an attempt to spare her family shame. As my parish priest said in a recent homily, “Baseball is not the national pastime, talking about people is.” Human nature, being what it is, I can’t imagine it was much different in 1st century Palestine. There are vultures everywhere, who will chomp down on any sort of scandal and ride it until it’s dead.

So Mary, not only fearing the reaction of her parents and Joseph, had to wait in fear for the reaction of the town. Would they stone her? Refuse to buy from her family, causing destitution? Would Joseph accuse her?

Then, Joseph believed her. She waited, and God provided. She was able to continue her pregnancy confident that she would not be stoned, and that Joseph would accept and believe her.

Of course, Mary being dedicated to the Temple by her parents at an early age would have meant that she, unlike most women of the day, would have learned to read the Torah. She was a devout girl, and so, when she consented to bear the Messiah, there was great joy! She had spent years reading the words of the prophets about the Messiah, and she knows that the hope of her people is curled up asleep in her womb. **Just pause and think about that one…woah**

It’s sort of fascinating to me to think that Mary’s Advent was filled with much more uncertainty than any of the Advent’s we will experience. As her due date drew closer, I can only imagine the questions that arose in her mind. How can I be the mother of God? Will I be able to teach Him anything, or give Him anything? How will we know when He is different? What will happen to Him? To me?

Yet ultimately, the joy in her heart at the arrival of a Messiah must have overridden her fears. Her waiting, with anxious heart, gave way to joyful anticipation because she knew that God would come through for her and her people. She was the living proof of that.

So what does this have to do with anything, other than being some good food for thought? Funny you should ask…

As I’ve blogged about here, I had a miscarriage in March. Atticus and I were not trying to get pregnant; actually, we were planning to wait “about a year” before we had children, because we wanted to have time to adjust to being married, we knew we’re be moving, Atticus wasn’t working, and I was still in school when we got married. BUT, God’s plan was different. And were were NFP novices. (Please note, I am saying that NFP works, we did not work). Of course, we lost that pregnancy, our son Michael.

It has been 9 months since then, and we have been trying again to conceive for about 3 months. What’s drawn my attention to God’s sense of propriety is that I experienced that miscarriage during Lent, and for the first time in my life, had an experience of suffering in which I felt, the entire time, that God was inviting me to join my suffering with His.

And now, several months later, we are trying to conceive again, without success thus far. It’s Advent, the time of joyful anticipation, and here I am, waiting. *shakes finger at God, saying, “You’re good, you know that?”*

Is it a co-incidence that I am literally waiting for some good news during the liturgical season of joyful anticipation? I think not. But am I thrilled? Not so much.

You see, I lost my very first pregnancy, and while the doctor told us that it was the kind of miscarriage that is most common (sometimes called blighted ovum), and that I would “most likely” go on to have healthy children, I have clamped down hard on that “most likely” and turned it into a “probably never”. I am very good at this.

Rather than feeling relatively certain that I’ll have one (or more) healthy pregnancies in the future (as Atticus has felt), I see each passing month without a pregnancy as a personal failure and further proof of the idea that I will never be a mother. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party here; I realize I’m being absurd, but I’m an emotional person with a melancholic temperament. It’s a lethal combination when it comes to waiting or uncertainty.

Elizabeth at That Married Couple, has just written a wonderful post about cultivating the virtue of humility, including a litany of humility she has been praying. Well, if there’s a litany of patience, somebody send it to me, because I need it!

It pains me to admit it, but I’m fearful that God won’t come through for us. That God will deny us the child we long for. Or worse, that God can somehow see that I will not be a good mother, and is therefore not going to gift us with a child.

In all probability, Atticus and I will probably have at least one child. But, I am an impatient American, and I want what I want…and right now, please. This is bad. I know this attitude is bad, and will not make my dream come true any faster.

I wish I could be more like Mary, and continue to trust in God’s goodness, even in the midst of anxiety and doubt about how things will turn out.

I am going to wrap up this crazy ramble with a request for prayers, and also, any advice from anyone who has had to wait with uncertainty for something good that they wanted. What did you do to sustain your faith in God’s goodness, even if you did not get what you wanted then (or ever)?

Thanks for listening!


11 thoughts on “On Mary and Waiting…

  1. Patience is a tough one for me as well. I have not experienced the things you speak of, but I have often prayed for patience. And I have found that God responds by sending me lots of trials to practice my patience…and I fail miserably most of the time.

    I will keep you in my prayers.

    God bless you for seeking God’s will in your life.

  2. I want to tell you that you *are* a mother. I want to tell you that God will give you more children, one way or another. And I am confident in the truth of that. But I am in no place to give advice, so please excuse the following.

    http://www.episcopalnet.org/TRACTS/litanypatience.html 😛

    Well, there is your litany for patience, but slightly more helpful might be reading through Arwen Mosher’s archives from a similar time in her life: http://ennorath.typepad.com/arwens_blog/2004/12/patience_who_am.html

    I don’t think that link will take you to *all* of her “waiting” posts, but it may get you started. And since I can’t fully share in this with you, this is the best that I can come up with http://ennorath.typepad.com/arwens_blog/2007/04/good_friday.html (why yes, I did just post three links to one person’s blog. Forgive me, especially if you’ve already read it all).

    Now for the part that I can address: “I realize I’m being absurd.” No, you’re not. There is nothing more natural than worrying about that which we hold most dear. It is good that you have a less-emotional husband to balance you out and provide support, but that does not mean that your feelings are absurd. Waiting is hard, and waiting for something which feels like it will be your entire purpose in life? Slow death. But I can’t advise you to try to look at “the bigger picture” because I get the feeling that the big picture for you is about being purified through waiting for this. And that is just tough.

    You have my prayers this Advent. If the Feast of the Immaculate Conception isn’t the time to pray for a godly child, I don’t know when is. 🙂

  3. Patience is not easy for me either. I will certainly be praying for you – not only that you are blessed with a baby very soon, but that you are given the strength, patience, and peace to endure the time until you are blessed with that baby.

  4. Tears in my eyes right now….I’m feeling the exact same way. About pregnancy, about life….

    Will be praying hard for you my friend!

  5. What a beautiful post. Great “food for thought” about Mary! And I am certainly sending prayers for you and Atticus as you wait. I wish I had some sort of advice or some way to help you (in addition to praying)! I immediately searched for a “litany of patience” (this post is the fourth hit!) with little luck. I did another search and found several prayers, including this one: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english4/p02923.htm. Maybe you’ll like it?

    I have to say that a part of me is slightly terrified that we will not be able to have children. We haven’t even started trying yet! Like you, I know that this is an irrational fear and we’ll probably be fine, but it’s still a little nerve-wrecking, to say “It’s all up to you, God!” I guess it’s one thing to say that when trying to postpone and another to say that when trying to achieve! Best wishes as you continue your prayerful wait.

  6. Oh dear…prayers for you, from another “emotional melancholic”. I am waiting right now too…not for a child, but for marriage…and I don’t have any advice aside from verses or passages that God continues to put in my path:

    ” By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.” (Is 30:15)

    “The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” (Ex 14:14)

    “It is true that God’s power triumphs over everything, but humble and suggering prayer prevails over God himself” — St. Pio

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and you can be sure that I will be praying! My own struggle with waiting (for marriage) is years old, and I don’t know if I have learned anything very helpful or not. I do know that I have grown closer to God, through the begging, through tears, when I have yelled at Him about my frustration about the whole situation and in those moments of surrender. I would say in your waiting, be completely honest with God about all that you’re feeling, because He will work with whichever feelings you are having at the moment!

    And I don’t think that you’re absurd! Or if you are, I am, too! I know what you mean about being melancholic and what that means with waiting and uncertainty. You should see what kinds of absurdities I come up with if I have a weekend with too much time on my hands! It’s crazy!! 🙂

  8. “Emotional melancholic.”

    Good phrase.

    I took a step back and looked at it for a moment. I could vouch that I’m similarly guilty.

    Here’s some encouragement from Mother Theresa. I read this yesterday, and it remained with me.

    “Discouragement is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your discouragement will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.”

    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. I just identified with your melancholy and have lately been crying myself to sleep over, oh, stuff that less fortunate people would not even call problems…and then Mother Theresa’s words lent me a calm that I needed to borrow. Discouragement is from the enemy. Don’t listen to it.

    **Prayers for your encouragement and your advent.**

  9. Thank you all so much for your comments! it’s really great to know that I have so many wonderful women praying for me — it means a lot!

    Rae, thank you for finding the Litany of Patience! Also, I am looking forward to reading all the other links you provided. 🙂

  10. i am in the exact same struggle as you are right now. 3 months and all. minus the knowledge that my body can even get pregnant. here’s praying to our advent and for waiting mothers everywhere (even though you already are one…you just need a baby that you can diaper instead of pray for you!)

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