But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
As is my practice, I was just reading my morning devotion from Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer. I’m on my second time through this book and the accompanying Bible readings, yet I continue to be surprised by the content. Perhaps that is because I am less than faithful in my ‘daily’ Bible study. Or, perhaps it is because I have a short attention span. For whatever reason, I am surprised and thrilled by the newness of God’s message to me.
Although my Bible reading has been haphazard, today’s ‘assigned’ reading is Luke 2 –the Christmas story. The focus verse is the one above that describes Mary’s thoughtfulness after the birth of Christ. Beth Moore says in her book that the word for pondered is sumballo “which describes taking many things, casting them together, and considering them as one”. I can only imagine the moments that Mary had to ‘cast together’ — that long journey to Bethlehem, the moment when her parents discovered her ‘situation’, the tense conversations with Joseph, the labor and delivery in a less-than-ideal setting, the first glance at her child, the knock on the wall of the stable when the shepherds arrived, the visit from foreign dignitaries bearing gifts. When she pondered those moments “as one” what did they add up to for her?
I’m sitting here three days after Christmas in my little house by the river, and I, too, am taking a moment to ‘sumballo’. As a matter of fact, this blog has had a theme of ‘sumballo’. For the last eighteen months I have been looking back over sections of my life, trying to ‘cast them together’ to ‘consider them as one’. In doing this, I am finding so much meaning.
Sometimes we are tempted to look at isolated moments as defining moments — that time that you lied to a trusted a friend, the year that your parents were divorced, the semester that you failed a class, that car accident that nearly claimed your life, the winning football championship, the Homecoming coronation, the birth of a child. Certainly these moments shape us, but they do not define us. From time to time we have to sumballo to put these moments into perspective as parts of a whole.
So, yes, I soldiered for ten years of my life. This behavior was costly to my physical, spiritual, and emotional health and to the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of my family. However, prior to that season, I stayed at home with my children for almost ten years — nurturing, hugging, reading, teaching, correcting, and guiding. Within each of those periods were awesome moments — young children singing happily in the car on a road trip — and devastating moments — the ones that you hope and pray will never happen to your family. If we grasp onto any one moment and let it define us, we rob ourselves of the bigger message — the theme of our lives.
And what is that theme? I have said for years that the theme of my life is that I am ‘rescued by grace’. I started saying that way back in my twenties when someone challenged me to write my testimony. Even in those early years, I had a sense that God had rescued me even though I didn’t deserve it. When I was careless, he protected me. When I was selfish, He was benevolent. When I was hateful toward others, He poured love on me.
As I am approaching fifty, I look back at all the events of my life, and I ponder them all in my heart. Time and again I see my failed attempts to do things on my own followed by God’s miraculous provision. I see God transforming my pain into compassion for others. I see my pride falling into humility. I see the love of God.
I wonder what Mary thought as she pondered ‘all these things’ in her heart. She had to see God’s miraculous provision in a faithful husband, a place of shelter, and safety from Herod. She had to see God transforming her pain and embarrassment into compassion for others. She had to feel humbled in the presence of the Christ child. She had to see the love of God for herself and for all of humanity.
Despite our weaknesses, our poor choices, our sin — He loves us. That is the message that I find when I sumballo.