The following was published last month in the year-end issue of Geneva’s occasional adult newsletter, “The Geneva Courier.” I adapted it from an article I had written years ago for Tabletalk magazine.
At this Advent season, let me recount for you a perspective God has given me on this special time in our Christian year.
Through the years, my wife, Mary, has spoken to groups about what she calls her “journey with joy.” She tells the story of her rather smooth journey through childhood, her conversion to faith in Christ in Ohio, her high school years in Florida, her college experience (including meeting me!), our marriage. Then came the summer of 1982.
Our first born, Jessica, struggled through her early months, but her doctor expressed no concerns. However, that summer more testing yielded the surprising – no shocking – report that Jessica had a chromosomal anomaly that likely occurred at conception which would leave her profoundly disabled mentally and physically.
From there Mary’s journey became a rugged struggle for survival. She and I both naturally had the “Why?” questions and together we struggled to pick up the pieces of the life we had planned. Though we faced our daughter’s permanent disability together, I realized then that Mary suffers in ways that I do not. She bore the weight and felt the pain (and the resultant joy) of childbirth. She nursed her, rocking her close for countless hours. These experiences create a bond that I, as a husband, cannot rival or relate to. As Mary recounts this dark and rugged part of her journey, Mary of Nazareth and Job of Uz figure prominently.
My Mary identifies with Jesus’ Mary because they both had to endure the suffering of their first born child. But with Job, my Mary has not been allowed to “look behind the veil” so to speak, to see all the reasons for her child’ afflictions. Mary of Nazareth, on the other hand, had angelic visitations that told the secret of His greatness and the special nature of His life, even before His birth (Luke 1:30-33). Surely she also heard form Joseph of his dreams revealing other significant details of her child’s redemptive purpose (Matthew 1:20-21). She later encountered Simeon and Anna who told her more of what to expect. She was forewarned that though her child’s life would be a wonder and a blessing, His death would at once be heart-breaking and soul-saving.
My Mary has longed to know through the years the purpose of Jessica’s life. But she, like Job (and countless other saints) must wait until the scroll is rolled back to know all the reasons and the pattern in the design of life. My Mary has the benefit and grace of more revelation and promises than Job had. But still those questions linger.
His Mary knew. But this knowledge could not have been easy to bear. Imagine knowing ahead of time what was coming. Such a heavy burden is what His Mary bore.
Of course, the fruit of His Mary’s womb from conception was perfect, the Spotless Lamb. The fruit of my Mary’s womb from conception was, under God’s sovereign and providential hand, anything but perfect in man’s eyes, but exactly what the Sovereign One intended for her to be. The One, shows us by His holiness our brokenness and need of redemption. The other, Jessica, in her own way also reminds us of our brokenness and need of redemption.
Through the similarities and the differences, Job, Jesus’ Mary, and my Mary, the three share a common conviction: they know their redeemer lives! Job looked forward, hoping in faith to look on his Redeemer. Mary of Nazareth beheld the face of her Redeemer throughout His earthly life. My Mary looks back through the eyes of Scripture to the story, and forward like Job to the prospect of being finally and fully in the presence of the Redeemer. And we are confident because of God’s covenant promises that with us around the throne will be Jessica – whole and finally, perfectly, able to praise her Redeemer.
Jessica, now 29, resides with many friends at Howell Branch Court, a care facility less than a mile from the Beates homestead.