“Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months…” (Luke 1:56)
I love that Mary lingered with Elizabeth. She did what most of us don’t know how to do or don’t take the time to do. Mary and Elizabeth practiced a spiritual discipline in their waiting together. There was probably moments of personal solitude, likely times of conversation and eating and exercising, walking from here to there.
But they were together and they were waiting. For Elizabeth’s delivery. And to get closer to Mary’s. They were waiting to see God bring what God said would come.
I imagine that could have been a time of great turmoil and great anticipation. Any time God is at the quiet work of forming the unseen, it’s both thrilling and unbearable. You know God’s working, you sense it, but you can’t see the full product. You can only wonder if that work will look this way or that, if the fruit of God’s toil will “sleep through the night” or if you yourself will be calm or frenzied when it finally comes.
Will I be equipped? Will I fail? Can I support him through it? What good will I be to her when she needs me? How will we make it?
I don’t think we have those answers when we first want them. The answers to our questions almost never come at our desired speed. We want God to act more quickly than God does. We want to know more than we do. We want answers when all we’re faced with are more questions.
What’s the consolation? What sustains us through the quiet darknesses of the nights before. The night before Christmas. The night before a surgery. The night before a meeting. The night before a move. What helps us manage?
I think the answer is in Luke’s description. Mary and Elizabeth stayed together. So simple. They were together, befriending one another through the unseen things. They were present to one another while they waited for whatever God would do. They monitored one another’s progress, one another’s souls, one another’s care.
Perhaps the presence of others is all it boils down to at moments like those these women lived through. After all, time doesn’t move any faster. One teacher showed me that five minutes is the same whether or not you’re looking at the clock, even if it feels differently. What helps? Another person. Mary staying with Elizabeth. My friend falling into a chair in my office. The text that was a reminder that I really wasn’t alone. The prayer someone had been praying when I couldn’t reach God myself. All examples of someone staying with someone else.
May this Christmas be an opportunity for you to be present to others, and may you never feel alone. May you feel, in a good way, surrounded by grace, mercy, and all the other gifts that make life life.