I know a pain that taints the merriment of the holidays. For many people, all the commercial hype and the expectancy of happy memories and jolly times tend to shine too bright a spotlight on all that is actually, not all that happy and jolly.
What is “merry and bright” can really be a painful magnifying glass on deep loss and missing family members. On unbearable pain in many forms… death, divorce, cancer, loneliness, unemployment, infertility… Really, the list can go on and on.
The holidays, they can be painful. In an unbalanced, unfair sort of way. The years keep coming, stretching agonizingly on with the absence of Mason becoming like this hole in my heart that does not shrink over time nor can it be filled by anything else. In every mom’s heart is an exact, perfectly shaped piece for each and every child she has been given. A unique gift, engraved by a Creator’s hand that does not alter or diminish over time.
Each new milestone, new holiday, brings new waves of grief. A new dimension of pain. A magnifying of an incomplete family, a missing smile, an absence of Christmas gifts, a void of life that once completed my happy little circle, my simple existence. A gift I loved and cherished for 6 years, that I never anticipated being pried from my fingers, is gone.
Nothing ever feels quite right.
This time of year is hard, as I am sure it is for many, because its not just a celebratory day but an entire season. Memories and traditions and celebrations that stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas and on to New Year’s. My home is filled with lights and special cookies and my children fill with the anticipation of traditions and laughter.
But my heart, while often filling with joy and laughter, will also always have a spot once filled with Mason, now filled with an empty ache for a little boy who left this world way too soon.
So I enter the holiday season bracing myself, knowing the joy and the laughter will also in many ways, amplify the reality of the absence and pain.
Reading through the Christmas story in Luke this year, my heart was drawn to the account of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus at the temple. And here they meet Simeon, who was “…righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Isreal, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:25)
So he saw this little baby at the temple, knew he was the Messiah, and he took him in his arms and praised God. And while his parents marveled, Simeon said, “… for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation…” (vs 30-32)
The fulfillment of centuries of prophecy. All this hope and promise!
But then he looks at Mary.
“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'” (vs 34-35)
The expected judgement. The promised redemption. The prophecy spanning our entire existence, everything in the past and everything to come hinges on this baby. So much could be said, so much praise, so much more hope.
But to Mary he says, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”
This phrase is in parentheses in my bible. Sort of a side note, but yet not a side note. In the midst of the greatest fulfillment of God’s prophecy that he will send a Savior and redeem all the world, God speaks through Simeon directly to a mother’s heart.
Yes, a sword will pierce your soul. You will watch your son suffer and die. This will be costly for you. It will hurt. The pain will be great, but I see it. I know.
I will redeem it. I know you will experience pain unimaginable. I know your heart will be pierced.
And although it serves a huge purpose, the fulfillment of my plan and hope for all eternity… it will hurt.
And I care about your pain.
The Sunday after Mason died, when I had resolved to hide under my covers until Jesus came back, Anthony encouraged me that it would be good for us all to go to church. And there, while protectively hovering outside the Sunday school classroom of one of my children in the event escape was necessary, one of our amazing children’s ministries ladies approached me with tears in her eyes.
“I’m not sure if you want these now, but I have some of Mason’s crafts.”
This one particular piece jumped out from all the rest. He had painted over a hidden message. And his art revealed one word.
It was almost a whispered word from the Lord to me. I have chosen Mason for eternity. I chose him from before you first held him. I knew every day of his life. I chose him. And I have chosen him, even in death, to accomplish much for my kingdom.
And as the truth of this washed over me, all I really wanted to say was, “No thank you. I want him back.”
This artwork is in my Bible. And I look at it almost daily. And while I have not wavered in my trust in the sovereignty of God, I still often say, “No thank you.”
No mother’s heart ever volunteers to be pierced by a sword.
I am sure Mary was far holier and more submissive than me. But in heaven, I am going to find her and ask what her response was. When Simeon held the Savior of the world in his arms, your precious baby boy, and *blessed* you by telling you a sword would pierce your heart, did you want to say, “Um, no thank you,” and snatch your newborn baby back and run from the temple?
God’s whisper in the parenthesis said that even this divine knowledge, that all of creation would be redeemed through the birth and death of this baby, would never be enough to buffer the pain of the piercing of a mother’s heart.
God knows. The promises and assurances are true. And the pain is also real. What I find to be the most significant parenthesis in the Bible is found right in the middle of the promise and fulfillment of all hope and redemption. This is God’s whisper, I see your heart. I see your pain. And it is great. And it will always exist this side of eternity. But I care.
Christmas, and the whole season surrounding it, is not easy. Not for many.
But that deep pain can be met by the deep and unwavering truth of a compassionate Savior. And deeper than my sadness over my little boy not being here is the truth that I will see him again. And someday, and for all eternity, we will celebrate together.
While my heart has been pierced by a sword and the scar surrounding that hole will exist every day of my life on this earth, there is also the comforting arms of a Father, wrapping around me saying, “I know.” I know your heart has been pierced and I know that the pain is great. And that is why I sent my son to redeem it. To heal it.
Our scars represent memories. They remind us of events in our life, usually associated with pain. The biggest physical scar I have is from Mason’s emergency c-section. And while that was most definitely not a pleasant experience in and of itself, I look at my scar and remember the gift of my baby boy.
This Christmas, the scar on my heart reminds me of something much more meaningful than Christmas lights and presents and holiday memories. It reaches far deeper than all the delightfully beautiful things on this temporal earth. My scar reminds me there is a Savior. Who has and will redeem all this pain.
Mary’s scar from her piercing maybe reminded her of a visit from an angel. She actually heard the spoken, personal promises from an almighty God who chose her. Mary’s scar probably reminded her of a birth in a stable where shepherds were sent by a host of angels to worship her baby. And yes, her scar had to remind her of other memories with her firstborn son. The first time he walked and the how he said her name. His laughter and his joy.
Our scars this Christmas can remind us that God sees. He knows our hearts have been pierced and he knows the pain of this world is great. He sees every tear and he knows a mother’s ache.
So while the Christmas season brings a magnifying glass to my pain and the absence of my little boy, it also greatly magnifies the true and deeper purpose of this season.
Yes, I will see Mason again. But even better, I will see my Savior. Who redeemed all of this, who himself was pierced for me, who knows pain and sees our scars and he will make it all right. He will redeem every tear. And the day that he wipes our tears from our eyes he will also fill those holes in our hearts and mend the scars of years of pain.
Because he makes all things new.
Everything he fulfilled and everything he has promised… Hope. Redemption. This is what truly makes Christmas special.