She told me to go back and do it again. I had already done the exercise once and was fairly surprised at where I landed. It was a “stuck” place for me that I was sort of aware of, but not really. The idea was to put myself into the story of Mary and Joseph as they arrive in Bethlehem and see where it might lead. Walking along with them, I felt keen anxiety over finding lodging. I felt myself fighting for control over fear as contractions came swifter and harder. Joseph’s distress was real to me. He had never birthed a baby before. I felt his efforts to comfort and offer strength in the face of Mary’s pain and distress. I felt the rehearsing in Mary’s mind of all her mother told her to do, and the heart palpitation when she couldn’t remember what to do next. But those feelings weren’t where I landed. It was in the very act of giving birth when Mary is at her most vulnerable and Joseph at his most courageous, but helpless state that I landed.

“How do you feel about that?” she asked.

I can tell you it didn’t feel good. Questions about God’s methods churned inside me. Why must He put His people in such raw positions of unprotected, painful realities?

“What is it like to feel that?”

It feels like I’m stuck. I can’t know the mind of God. But that doesn’t feel like love to me. I want to believe Jesus when He moves toward me and invites me to be close, but I get stuck in the reality of the pain.

“What happens then in the story?”

Nothing.

“Nothing? What happens after, as Mary is holding Jesus?”

I never really get to that part. The dilemma, pain and insecurity of the situation dwarf the birth.

That was interesting to realize. How often does life’s harshness obscure the point of the pain so that I don’t even see it or its value? I acknowledge the point. I do know Jesus was born. But I didn’t realize how much my experience of the hard eclipsed the wonder of the beautiful.

She leaned back in her chair and invited me to revisit the stable.

This time I imagined that last final wave of agony and how it must have overwhelmed even Mary’s thoughts. Then Jesus is crying, and Joseph is awkwardly cleaning Him, too preoccupied by doing well by this child to really see Him. Finally, he places Jesus in Mary’s arms. Her breathing has calmed, sweat has cooled and she carefully receives Him. For the first time, they can both really look at Him. He looks so ordinary. He could and would be mistaken for something that happens every day. But He wasn’t. He was the culmination of dreams, miracles, prophecies, and waiting. He was the evidence of the unseen, the one whom hearts know but don’t recognize. And more personally to them both, He was the confirmation of the goodness in saying, “Yes. Let it be. Let it come. Do to me what you will. I believe you.” He was their reward.

“So what do you feel now? How do you feel as you gaze on Jesus?”

It took me some moments to find the word through my tears.

I feel wonder.

ACTION: As you put yourself into the story of Mary and Joseph what do you discover? How do they make you feel?  Where might the familiarity and ordinariness of your story obscure the beauty and wonder of God?

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