But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Grandmothers have them -little treasures labeled with memories- daughter’s first shoes, mother’s salt and pepper shakers, son’s first woodworking project. Depending on tolerance for visual clutter and willingness to dust, they may be displayed on a shelf or tucked in a box under the bed.
Folks caught in the flood in High River tell me their most painful losses were photos and personal trinkets and heirlooms irretrievably saturated in mud and sewage. At least they still have their memories. I watch my elderly father desperately grabbing for precious memories as they are sucked into the muddy mess of dementia. His frustration in trying to recall a name is because that name is attached to the memory of a person whose significance he realizes is fading. His memory treasures are being de-cluttered down to the essential ones -his wife, his children, his God.
It’s not necessary to have objects to help us remember, in fact when too many things carry memories for us we can easily become hoarders and block our own paths to the future with junk from the past. A lot of memories need to be tossed, but sometimes a jar that carried precious spice a magi gave your baby can be pretty special. I wonder if Mary kept it or if Joseph sold it to finance their sojourn to Egypt.
It’s really the memories of God-moments that Mary treasured. She pondered them, meditated on them, tried to understand the significance of them.
Sometimes God has shown up in my life and handed me something I don’t know what to do with, but know it’s significant, so I store it on a shelf in my mind. Sometimes I take it down and ponder it, looking at it from all sides, then put it back. Later, when I’ve almost forgotten, it comes in handy and suddenly makes sense.
About a year ago I had a dream in which I saw a leather-covered box with long leather tethers attached. In the box I saw pieces of paper with scripture verses written on them and I had a strong sense that I would need these. I pondered this dream when I woke up and realized the box was like the phylactery boxes orthodox Jews tie on their foreheads and arms. At the time I was waiting for O.R. time so my surgeon could do a biopsy on something that had all the signs of serious advanced cancer. Fear gripped my mind; it almost paralyzed me. I remembered all the promises and significant Bible verses that stood out to me in the previous few weeks and wrote them down on coloured sticky notes. I didn’t have a leather box, but I read them over and over applying them to my mind. Even when I had trouble hearing them -(By His stripes we are healed; Bless the Lord and forget not all his benefits -who heals your diseases and renews your youth; Trust in the Lord with all your heart... and many more) I tied them on my head figuratively speaking, as weapons against the monster of fear that waged war in my mind. Metaphorically I tied them on my arm as a reminder to continue to choose to act in the light of His words, believing in God’s faithfulness.
By the time the biopsy was done I was at peace. My doctor was totally surprised when the procedure revealed a benign growth that could be easily removed. God was not surprised. But this whole exercise was just a warm-up for the next battle.
Before we left to go to our granddaughter’s birthday I saw the pile of scripture verses on my dresser. They had become precious, ponderable treasures to me and for some reason I grabbed them at the last minute and tucked them in my suitcase. Later that week, when our son-in-law was comatose in critical condition and doctors were privately giving him 0% chance of survival, I pulled out the verses and read them over him in the hospital room. My daughter borrowed them and in the battle for his life read them as well. I sometimes saw her pull them out of her pocket and lay them (now worn and curled) on the counter with her keys at the end of a long day. I saw her faith grow. I saw my faith grow. Together we, and an entire community, saw God miraculously restore her husband to perfect health in away that totally defied all predictions.
Mary didn’t understand a lot of the things she witnessed and experienced in her life. It’s easy in hindsight to put the puzzle pieces together, but God didn’t give her the complete picture all at once. He told her she was highly favoured and that the message she carried in her body was for the salvation of the world. Who could possibly fathom how that would work? Who could possibly comprehend that the pain she suffered — the gossip and rejection, the refugee flight, seeing her son shamed and executed as a criminal– were all signs of God’s favour? So until the day when her son rose from the dead and became her own Saviour she treasured the promises and pondered the memories on the shelf. When the time was right, in God’s good time, they all made sense.