When Tommy was seven, he and I spent time with a friend as he took us on a tour of Nintendo -- a kid's dream workplace! As we were leaving, Mark turned to Tommy and encouraged him in the faith and gave him words of wisdom for his life. "He just blessed you!" I told Tommy as we left.
I was thinking of these two experiences today as I was finishing a study I've been doing on Mary, the mother of Jesus. (I've been slow to move away from the Christmas story this year.) In the study of Ann Spangler and Jean E Syswerda's book, Women of the Bible, the reader is told to choose an episode in Mary's life and imagine herself in Mary's place. I thought of her experience when she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be dedicated (Luke 2:21-40).
Mary had been through so much already -- the visit from the angel; the very difficult situation she found herself in with her family, Joseph, and the people of Nazareth; her time spent with Elizabeth; the trip to Bethlehem; Jesus' birth; the shepherds. Mary was young, barely a teenager. She must have had so many questions swirling around in her mind. And very few answers. She was a participant in a drama that was so much bigger than she was.
When Jesus was forty days old she and Joseph took him to the temple to be presented to the Lord. While there, Simeon, a righteous man who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, approached them, took the baby in his arms, and praised God. He called Jesus a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Later Anna, an elderly widow who never left the temple, recognized Jesus' purpose, gave God praise and spoke of the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
To see such reactions to her child must have stunned Mary. She knew her baby was special, that he was the Son of God, but with Simeon and Anna she received more information. Simeon had prayed, Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared, in the sight of all people. And to Mary he had said, This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. Those aren't the kinds of things people say to new parents! We just don't talk about the rising and falling of people or swords piercing souls! What was Mary to do with that?
Perhaps she could have shared some of her thoughts with Joseph or her mother, or visited Elizabeth and told her what she'd heard. But I don't think she did, because we are told in Luke 2:19, after the visit of the shepherds, that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Life is full of the unfathomable. There are certainly times to share our thoughts and concerns with other people. Maybe we want help interpreting our experience. Perhaps we need assurance or direction from another. But maybe we do too much sharing and not enough treasuring and pondering.
When our kids were little and life was coming at me hard and fast, Mom gave me a heart-shaped box where I could keep my thoughts and questions. We called it my Ponder Box.
As we start the new year, let's do less talking and more pondering. What we see day to day is just the slightest peek into what's happening around us. Pondering gives us a chance to watch in wonder as God works to bring things together. Being quiet before Him draws us closer to His heart. And isn't that where we really want to be?