(This is a re-post. *First Ponder was written shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in Dec. of 2012)
Today is a snow day. A perfect day to ponder and lately, I’ve been pondering what it means to ponder….
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Mary did not endure packed Wal-Mart aisles. She wasn’t in charge of baking the Christmas ham, didn’t stress over gingerbread cookies or family coming over or finding last minute stocking stuffers. She wasn’t hunting down the scotch tape or waiting in line at the post office, or figuring out what to wear or what dish to bring to what party.
Mary was pregnant. And she was a virgin. Which made her prime suspect for public and private ridicule, slander, and jokes. We believe her now—at least I do—about the virgin birth thing, but not many believed her then. Not many understood what she was going through, what she’d been called to, what carrying this baby meant for them. For her. For the world. No doubt she was misunderstood. Assumed crazy? At the very least she must have gone through some kind of identity crisis to be the center of such scandal, one that could result in her being stoned to death. She didn’t have to buy any presents but she did ride on a donkey for miles and miles, bumping along with an aching low back. She did do Lamaze breathing (even though she didn’t know it would one day be called Lamaze breathing) on a contaminated barn floor. She did deliver her child without the comfort of her mother or the wisdom of a midwife or the empathy of another woman. And she did have unexpected raggedy visitors show up, strangers, with animals in tow, to worship her baby. She did have to rise in the middle of the night when her husband nudged her and said they needed to leave. Now. She did have this insidious King bound and determined to murder her baby. She did know the world would never be the same.
She had much to ponder, much to turn over, quietly, reflectively. “Me, Lord? You chose me to be a part of this plan?” And what a surprising plan it was.
We don’t take the time to ponder, and we have much to ponder. Right now it feels like the whole nation is weeping,* and I know there’s much to debate, but I think we need to ponder first. Ponder things like… who are we, really, and what are we doing here? You know, nothing deep.
I’ve been pondering who we are not.
We are not walking accidents, the result of random chance and millions of years of soup. If we were, tragedies like what happened in Connecticut* wouldn’t pierce our hearts. If life were merely the result of chance, we wouldn’t all know, to the depths of our being, that killing the innocent is evil and wrong. If survival of the fittest ruled we wouldn’t, rightly so, call teachers who give their life for their students heroes. But we all agree that defending the innocent is good and right. Why?
Because someone put that in us.
Who are we? We are image bearers. The pinnacle of God’s creation. Beings with souls that outlive our bodies. Sojourners in the preface of our never-ending journey. But we—all of us—have really messed things up. Big time. So we stumbling along in a broken world and our remedy will not come from legislature. Don’t put words in my mouth—I’m not saying legislature can’t help, I am saying it can’t fix us. It can’t fix what’s broken to the core because before guns there were knifes and before knives, stones, and before stones, fists. We are broken to our core and our remedy does not come from ourselves, nor can it come from other people because they, too, are broken to their core. I know my own struggles and I know I needed someone to reach down and pull me out, and a rulebook can’t do that. I needed a God who is so full himself that not only does he claim he has truth, he claims that he is truth. A God so humble and selfless he came to be with us—stepped into our mess—in the meekest way possible.
I wonder if this is, in part, what Mary pondered. At any rate, this is what I’m pondering, treasuring up today, as the snow is coming down.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool…”