Visitation by Jaques Daret
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:41-45
By: Ashley Blackburn
I was picking up my daughter from elementary school when I was stopped by an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. She was unaware that I am pregnant with baby number 5 on the way. The woman approached me and in a sympathetic tone said she didn’t know I was pregnant again. Despite being a little taken aback, I quickly responded with joy and excitement over this new life that was going to come into the world! My friend proceeded to try to sympathize with me, although I was not sad about being pregnant, and asked how I was feeling and how my husband was “handling” the fact that we were going to have another baby. I then began to realize just how countercultural it is to bring forth new life after you’ve already had your 2.5 kids. Upon this realization, I wanted my friend to know how excited we all were as a family… my husband included. I told her the kids were ecstatic and I was really looking forward to sharing in this joy of new life with my now somewhat older children (ages 12, 11, 8, & 5). As we were about to part ways, she asked when I was due. I told her in July and she told me that it was going to be really hot… another attempted opportunity to show how sorry she was for my being pregnant. “Yes, it is going to be hot in July” was my candid response.
I walked away feeling sorry for my friend and for all women with this view. No, pregnancy is not pleasant. Except for those few strange mothers who say they love being pregnant, for the most part it is uncomfortable, often painful, and completely humbling. Mothers sacrifice their bodies, their emotions, their energy, and so much more in order to bear new life within them. It is no small feat. But what are we as women doing to lift up and support pregnant mothers? What are we doing to remind them of the miracle of life that they bearing in their womb? How are we helping them see in this time of self sacrifice how they are cooperating in the creative work of God Our Father? It is no wonder abortion rates are on the rise and couples are choosing every option available to avoid pregnancy. Expectant mothers are often times left unsupported and often criticized by her peers.
Where are pregnant mothers able to find the support and encouragement they need in this culture that views pregnancy and motherhood as an unwanted heavy burden? The answer lies in the example of the Visitation. Mary is no doubt inconvenienced by becoming pregnant and Elizabeth her cousin is pregnant in her old age. Both of these circumstances are not ideal for pregnancy. Both women can be expected to be filled with shame or sympathy. But the Visitation plays out very differently. When Mary approaches Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with joy and surprise… even the infant in her womb leapt for joy. Mary then proclaims the glory of God and rejoices even amidst her unideal situation in the world’s eyes. In God’s eyes, it was the perfect ideal.
The exchange between Mary and Elizabeth shines a light on the tremendous influence that we women have upon one another. It reminds us that our response to each other’s life story, no matter what the circumstance, is of utmost importance. Women have been given the unique ability to bond with one another on a deeply spiritual and emotional level. These bonds of friendship are what sustain and uplift women in their time of need. When we stop supporting and encouraging each other, we in essence abandon a major part of who we are as women and the unique gift given to us by our Creator.
My encounter with my friend was a definite eye-opener for me. It was God’s way of showing me the importance of my own responses, as well as the perception of our culture when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood. It was a way for God to give me the opportunity to be joyful despite what one would expect of someone in my circumstance. It was a way for the light of Christ to break forth into this world filled with so much darkness. I am truly grateful for this opportunity that God has given me today and I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me in this way. May we as women always remember to imitate Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation story when sharing all of our life events with one another. Choose joy.