One Mother’s Day, I slid into the pew next to my husband and whispered in his ear, ‘If this sermon is about how Mary was the greatest Mother of all, I am going to puke!’ You can imagine my face turning green as I opened the program to see the sermon title: Mary, the Greatest Mother of All (my exact words!). The sermon could still have been great despite its title, but it did just what I feared. It described Mary as perfect and flawless. I heard my thoughts screaming ‘What! She lost her 12 year-old son for 3 days for pete’s sake! If I did that I would be arrested for neglect. Don’t you read your Bible?!!!’ (Luke 2:41-48)
Not only did she lose THE Son of God; look at what she said when she found him again: ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ What a marvelously selfish comment. She didn’t say, ‘Are you okay?’ or ‘Are you hurt?’ NO. It was, ‘look what you did to us’. There are other stories where even Jesus rebukes her for an inappropriate request or for demanding that he comes home to the family. Mary wasn’t perfect. She was, in fact, a very typical mother!
The beauty of scripture is that the people who inhabit it were just that – people, like you and me – flawed, selfish, lazy. Their imperfections, however, did not keep them from being eternally significant. To present them as flawless is to flatten scripture into a 2-dimensional cookie cutter that doesn’t fit the rest of humanity. I don’t even WANT to relate to a woman who is a ‘perfect mother’. The idea of perfection – in terms of being flawless – simply inflates my inadequacies to the point of paralysis. That doesn’t really help me feel confident in my own ability to bring glory to my maker!
But to see them make mistakes – and still be loved by God eternal – and to still be able to offer His love to others – that encourages me. I can relate to that. God chose a typical young woman to be the mother of His Son because she had a trusting heart and wished to honor her God. Nothing more, nothing less.