Have you ever read the gospels and found yourself astounded by the number of Mary’s that were involved in the events of the time? It’s almost like watching a modern day play where every other female character is named Jennifer, and yet every Jennifer has a distinct personality, and is somehow involved in her own concurrent plot.
Now, I’m no theater major – I’ve never even watched a show on Broadway. I didn’t study literature and have never read Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet (though I am preferential to the adaptation that featured Aaliyah), and I’m not a hundred percent sure what a sonnet is – but I do know a literary device when I see one. I’ve read the Bible enough times to know to never underestimate God’s ability to weave a narrative throughout history that speaks through the written Word to the unique experience and circumstance of an individual – even one so far removed from the time and place of the history itself as I am.
Is it possible that there were just a lot of Mary’s in Jesus’ time? Of course. I’m sure everyone was rushing to name their child ‘bitterness’. But the fact remains that it was 3 Mary’s that were at the foot of Jesus’ cross when he died – when all but one of his disciples had deserted him – and that it was three Mary’s that discovered Jesus’ empty tomb. These Biblical facts speak volumes to me where others might skip over them in silence.
Now, dear gentlemen reading this, please know now that this is not a feminist rant seeking to prove that Jesus’ male followers were mostly trash men who tended to bail the moment the going got tough (except John, who swears he was everywhere that mattered and was also Jesus’ favorite). I wouldn’t do that, no matter how tempted the carnal side of me is to turn this piece into a manifesto about how women are better and should rule the world lol. On the contrary, there is so much we can all learn from these women because it really isn’t about them being women… it’s about them being human.
After reading and hearing the stories of these women time and time again, I realize now that I am Mary…
And at the same time, Mary is who I aspire to be.
Which one, you ask? Pick your choice. It doesn’t matter. Both one and all of them.
I am Mary, mother of Jesus, frightened at what God is calling me to, and somedays battling with my anxiety over being ridiculed or judged for what I believe.
I am Mary Magdalene, tormented and never at peace, often seeking a sense of belonging and worth in the wrong things and from the wrong people.
I am Mary of Bethany, content at simply being at the Lord’s feet and hearing him speak, and yet at the same time so consumed with what I receive that I neglect the needs of the world around me.
I am Mary Salome, mother of the disciples James and John, eager to follow Jesus, but sometimes caring more about what I can get from him than what he wants to do with and through me.
I am Mary of Clopas, the wife of Cleopas and the one thought to have been walking with him on the road to Emmaus, disappointed that Jesus didn’t turn out to be the savior I once thought him to be, and sometimes quick to walk away from him to find my own path, even knowing his promise to guide me.
Doubtful. Depressed. Sorrowful. Fearful. Selfish. We tend to think any one person cannot be more than one thing, because we are taught to look at the world as black and white. Good or bad. Helpful or harmful. Weak or strong. Faithful or disappointing. And yet none of these women were either, or. As messed up and fearful and selfish as they were, these women were among the few who stayed with Jesus until the end, even when many of his best friends had abandoned him – even when his Father turned away.
I am Mary – I am all of these women and all their messes rolled into one – and at the same time, Mary is who I aspire to be! Because at the end of the day, these women showed up when it mattered most. They had faith when it mattered, gave when it mattered, served when it mattered and stuck with Jesus right up until the end – and even after. They kept coming back, kept trusting and kept believing him for more. They didn’t gloat or lord it over others when they got it right, and they never stopped following him even when they got it wrong.
There is nothing I desire more as a Christian than to live the kind of life these women did – authentic in their messes and not ashamed to admit that they were in dire need of a savior, or to seek him out. Willing to follow him to the cross, even with their mess, and devoted right up until the end.
You and I can never hope to be perfect, but we can be Mary. If we will stick close to Jesus, we can avail our lives and our messes and our stories for God to use us for His glory.