16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
I never slept much in the twelve weeks Charlie was in the NICU or the six when the twins were. Life on that ward is an odd one. You run off a clock set by shifts and care times and dipping and spiking oxygen levels and heart rates. It is a life on the edge for you and for your child.
Mary got it. She walked that edge from the time she discovered that she was pregnant. She did not know if Joseph would still marry her. And if he did, she did not know what those wedding plans, the ones she had probably been dreaming up, would look like now. Would it be a secret marriage, just as Jesus was still a secret? And then when the census rolled around and she rode a donkey all the way to Bethlehem (my sciatic nerve hurts just thinking about it), she did not know what to do when labor started. There was no Bethlehem Memorial birthing suite waiting for her. Yet because of this chain of events and her willingness to be a participant, she birthed a miracle and the shepherds spread the news and she would remember it all.
I think about her often, mostly when I think how she got it right and I never will, when it comes to trust. But I also think it wasn’t really about her and that God can work something supernatural in you so that you react to circumstances in ways you would not normally. Though there is no end to the horror stories I could share about our time in the NICU, especially with Charlie, I look back now and see the moments where God took over so that I reacted against character: our decision to have the tracheotomy so he could breathe despite all my fears; my ability to live in the NICU and learn to care for him (more a nurse than a mother at that point); the clothes I cut holes in to work around the wires in the incubator; the chest-to-chest care despite the hoses and the alarms screaming at me. None of this was my doing. It would not have been possible without divine intervention. I am not fool enough to think that strength came from me alone. But I proudly claim participation.
So here’s what I’m thinking on this Christmas Eve morning: that stable living, not “steady living”, but the kind that Mary learned to do, is the best kind. It keeps you un-steady so that you remember your plans might be good, but maybe God’s are greater. Next week everybody will tell you to kick off the new year with resolutions to do more and be more, but I’m thinking mine might be to wait and pray and see how it all pans out.