Women in general and mothers in particular have a nurturing aspect in their souls that men just don’t have. It has nothing to do with love because men can love as genuinely as women. It’s a sixth sense of being female, something they have and are meant to have because they are able to handle it in good situations and bad.
And here is what I think that thing is: I think it is the ability to ponder things at a very deep level. I think women are like cows chewing the cud. One round of consideration is not enough. They process and microprocess things whereas most men macroprocess things. We like to see the bottom line, the big picture, file it in our box, and move on to the next assignment. Not so for women. What we men would be happy keeping as a solid object, women run through the blender of their femaleness and come out with pureed thoughts that relate in miraculous ways to the other pureed thoughts that have been hidden away in a pantry that even angels fear to tread.
I came across a sermon by The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson, a Lutheran pastor, who says this about Mary, the mother of Jesus:
The gospel writer Luke has a special attraction to Mary and her pondering heart. Mary did not take what was happening to her at face value, but sought the deeper, hidden intentions behind her experience. She was perplexed and pondered what sort of greeting the angel Gabriel gave her when he said “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). She pondered the words of the shepherds (Luke 2:19) and kept all the strange events of Jesus’ childhood and “treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51). We can only imagine her ponderings at the foot of the cross.
In the encounter with the angel Gabriel, Mary is nothing like the passive recipient of God’s will that is normally assumed of her. She is perplexed. She wonders. She ponders her future and the meaning of God’s will. She questions God – “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34). I wonder if that question occurred to her again as she endured the scorn of her neighbors during her unwed pregnancy or saw her son tortured to death.
What makes Mary a model of faith is not only her willing submission to God’s will, but her struggle with that will for her life. Mary, with her questions and ponderings, shows us the way …to ponder what God is up to in our lives and in our world. It is a [way] to treasure in our hearts those things God has done. It is a [way] to receive God’s word of grace for us. Her life was not easy after her encounter with the angel and there were doubtless many more times for questions and chances to ponder, but in the encounter with God, Mary, like all of us who respond to God with struggles, questions and ponderings, found favor.
Yes, mothers hide that pantry of ponderings very carefully. They are not willing to share the preciousness of what they possess with everyone or maybe anyone.
Let’s look at how Mary stocked her pantry of ponderings.
Luke 1:26-38 says:
26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
30The angel said to her, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.
31″And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
32″He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
35The angel answered and said to her, ” The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
36″And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in
her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.
37″For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Can you even imagine how Mary had to chew on that word. She pondered on it immediate and continued to ponder on it as she interacted with her unconventional pregnancy, ridicule from her community, and unusual support from Joseph. Sometimes, a mother’s greatest pondering comes with the weirdest situations.
Let’s look further in Luke to chapter 2, verses 1-19:
2Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
5in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10But the angel said to them, ” Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12″ This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14″ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Now Mary had even more to ponder. This child of hers was no longer just a private matter between her and Joseph. Jesus had hit the front page of the Shepherd’s Post. The word was out. Can you image the reactions of people when they heard all the details from the shepherds? Doubt, hope, unbelief, amazement, scorn. This was a newborn baby, whose character and life were yet beyond judgement. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Sometimes, a mother’s greatest pondering comes with the most public proclamations about her child.
Let’s continue the story in verses 21-40:
21And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
22And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord
23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ” EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”),
24and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, ” A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.”
25And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,
28then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29″Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word;
30For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed–
35and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those
who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Do you think Mary added this experience and the amazement it brought to her pantry of ponderings? I’m sure of it. Let’s continue in verses 41-52:
41Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
42And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast;
43and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it,
44but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.
45When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him.
46Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.
47And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
48When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way?
Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”
49And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
50But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them.
51And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Isn’t it true that mothers treasure and ponder things they do not always understand? These additions to their pantry of ponderings may make up the bulk of what its shelves hold.
Let’s now go to the Gospel of John for the completion of today’s story. Chapter 19, verses 23-27. But before we read it, let’s consider what a pantry of ponderings is for. A pantry is a place to put back things that one might need in the future when they are not so available. My wife, Jan, is starting to put back a few things for future use. We bought a pressure canner and plan on using it this summer to increase the inventory of our pantry. A well-stocked pantry is also a source of help for those who might require something in a time of need. We desire to share our surplus with others.
But what is a pantry of ponderings good for, you might ask? The things a mother ponders and puts back through the good times and bad times of childrearing act as a spiritual surplus when she needs it most. And when Jesus entered His public ministry at age 30, Mary especially needed to remember and feast on those things she had hid in her heart. Jesus was loved by some and hated by many. I’m sure as He went about the region teaching and ministering, word got back to her through the grapevine what Jesus was doing and the reaction of the people to it. How many mothers am I speaking to today who have heard the reports of a wayward child in trouble or longed for the reports of a child doing well in the world. Mary, I’m sure was getting both. And I’m sure she chewed and processed these reports in her heart and added them to her pantry of ponderings. She would soon need what was there for her own survival and to share with others in distress.
John 19:23-27 says:
23Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.
24So they said to one another, ” Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS.”
25Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ” Woman, behold, your son!”
27Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Tradition is split on whether Mary remained and died in Jerusalem or lived with John in Ephesus. Wherever Mary lived out the remainder of her life, it is safe to say that she never quit pondering the things she had seen and experienced. I believe that once a mother, always a mother is an aphorism of truth. And I believe it because mothers are experts of maintaining a pantry of ponderings.