I found myself with a strange yearning as December started this year. I began to see beautiful newborn babies everywhere I looked. And I wanted to snatch them up, and cuddle them and rock them, smell their hair and bury my face in their soft cheeks. This is very out of my normal so I thought a lot about what I might have been looking for in these feelings. It was as I sat, for the first quiet moment in weeks, at the relief society program that I knew that it was the simple peace that I had always felt as I spent those quiet moments, sometimes forced in the middle of the night, alone by myself with my own little babies. I love the celebration of Christ as a baby during this season. 5 years ago I had my own Christmas baby on the way. She was due on Christmas day but as I miserably plodded into my doctor’s office a few weeks before, he told me that I had been walking around at an 8 and would be having a baby that day. I was far away from my home. I didn’t have my mother close by to call to take care of my other girls. I was in a strained marriage and felt so uncertain about so many things at that time and didn’t really feel any support from him but I knew that this baby was meant to come at that time and meant to be mine. My other deliveries had been easy. They were routine and quick and I loved being able to finally have a baby in my arms. But this one was different. I only remember staring at the clock on the wall as hours passed by. The tick-tock was the only sound I could tolerate. I cannot imagine how Mary must have felt as she lay down in a dirty corner of a stable, knowing what would imminently be required of her, and that she would do it in this unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers. I feel an empathy that I know goes beyond an measure of my understanding for this young girl who was given what must have seemed an insurmountable task and she responded with a faith I can’t comprehend, trusting that God knew her worth and that He would provide for the means for her to accomplish the mission she had been given of bring the Savior of the world into His earthly ministry. When the time finally came for me to begin the work of bringing my own baby into the world I can only remember thinking “This is too hard.” I had done this twice before, it shouldn’t have felt like that. After hours of pushing and no progress I thought, I just can’t. I cannot keep going. This is too hard. I had no hand to hold. I had no cheerleaders. I trusted my doctor and the nurses who surrounded me but I so strongly felt that I would not be able to do what they needed me to do. “This is too hard.” And then the moment that should have been immense relief only brought panic as I knew immediately that something was not right. The tears couldn’t be stopped even as they reassured me that it was going to be okay. My baby was whisked away and I felt my heart shatter at the distance put between me and the spirit I had held so close for months. The frenzy in the room increased as they attempted to repair the damage done by an almost 11 pound baby. I began to go in and out of consciousness and when I fully woke up again the room was dark and quiet. I heard the ticking of the clock again and the panic of the night came on as I remembered what had happened. Then I saw the shadow in the corner of my hospital room. My doctor had pulled a small desk into the room and was quietly making notes. I would realize later that he had been there for 3 hours. In the hundreds of deliveries I had worked in labor and delivery, I don’t think I had ever seen a doctor pause more than 15 minutes after a birth before running out the door. My condition didn’t merit him staying, the bleeding had stopped and my body just needed rest but I believe he saw the heart of a young, worried mother and did not want me to wake up in an empty room. As Mary tucked her newborn baby in and the fatigue she must have been shouldering bore down, I can imagine her relief as God sent those he knew would go with haste to bring joy to those first few hours of Christ’s life. The scriptures tell us how Mary took all this in, quietly with grace. She had to be worried knowing all that would be required of her role. She had already endured so much. Her reputation, her impending marriage, all could have been ruined and lost, yet Mary never doubted. She only worried she would fail the child being placed in her care. The power given to this one woman as she became a mother was probably not realized by her all at once. I don’t know if our human minds and temporal understanding can handle all that may be asked of us to endure sometimes. The next morning I was finally given my cell phone again and I called my mother. I had spent the night hearing the overwhelming list of challenges my baby was dealing with and again felt myself thinking, “This is too hard.” I didn’t know if she would be okay. How would I take care of my other girls while trying to take care of her. The worries were completely overtaking me and the doubt was crippling. I needed so badly to have that feeling of loneliness dissipate. I simply said hello and heard my mother start to cry on the other end of the line. My mom is very composed under pressure and the emotion wasn’t what I expected. She quietly choked out, “Heather, we almost lost you.”
In that simple sentence my entire perspective changed. I had only been thinking of all the external problems coming at us at that time. I had shriveled as I focused only on the trials still looming. But in that sentence I realized without any shred of doubt that God had asked me to come to Him in all things. He was there. He was taking me and helping to make me what he would need me to be. He had protected me and he had been there, suffering with me, but he knew the power that would come as I realized that.
We often marvel that our king would begin his life in a dirty, murky stable surrounded by livestock with only a trough to be laid in. But I often think about poor Mary, being so far from home and in such a dire place, alone bringing her baby into this world. She had to struggle with the loneliness of her task, but seeing the peace she always seemed to show leads me to believe that she had also found the strength that comes when you have to be so utterly dependent on the Lord. How else could she have raised the Savior, the only person who would ever truly experience true loneliness on this earth. Without knowing the importance of her mission how could she have helped prepare him for his? She had to endure some degree of the suffering her son would go through as it would be necessary of her to support Him, through persecution and disdain. There is nothing like a mother’s broken heart. But feelings like that are what open us up to allowing God to let us know how strong we can be through him. It causes us to be vulnerable enough to allow his fortifications to come in and build us up to what we are truly capable of being. It is when focusing on Him and reaching for his outstretched hand, that we can walk on the water with Him and not be sunk in our storms.
Angels watched as Mary changed God’s diaper. The universe watched with wonder as the Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. Jesus may have had bad skin. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps the girl down the street had a crush on him. One thing is for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human. For thirty-three years he would feel everything that you or I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, he burped, he got his feelings hurt. His feet got tired and his head ached.
To think of Jesus in that light is almost uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep humanity out of it. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer. He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable. But don’t do that. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out. Listen to him. Love your neighbor was spoken by a man whose neighbors tried to kill him. The challenge to leave family for the gospel was issued by one who kissed his mother good-bye in the doorway. Pray for those who persecute you came from lips that would soon be begging God to forgive his murderers. I am with you always are the words of a God who in one instant did the impossible to make it all possible for you and me. It all happened in a moment, and in my life as in Mary’s, the power that can be found in one miraculous moment can be the beginning of finding our relationship with God and finding the purpose and power of our life as only He can intend.