Mary’s Hiding Place
BY LESLIE CROUSE
~ FIFTEEN MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST ~
Mary fell back into the fresh hay finding comfort in the clean, grassy scent of her father’s stable. Every morning before dawn she came to the stable to pray. Few understood it. But her mother, Sarah, allowed her this time of solitude. When the sun shone upon the roof Joseph would arrive to escort her to the midwife for another day of tedious house calls.
She could see her mother watching from the window. The moment Mary had begun signs of womanhood, Sarah had insisted she train with Nazareth’s midwife. “You are to assist and learn all you can about the female body and birthing process,” she had instructed Mary. “One never knows the turns life can take.” Mother believed in equipping her daughters.
Mary did not like midwifery, but she had already learned much. Her family lacked money for a midwife’s expertise, so her sisters took turns assisting the local midwife in an exchange for services when needed. But those worries belonged to the daylight hours. The pre-dawn hours were hers alone.
In the stable Mary could set it all aside and bask in the presence of the LORD. Every morning Mary came to the stable to find privacy and freedom for prayer. Her father called it intercession. Mary was no spiritual giant. All she knew is that she burned with the need to cry out for others. So she prayed until peace replaced the urgency. Today, her cousin Elizabeth was heavy upon her heart.
Something was shifting in the spiritual realm. She could sense it. There was an eagerness inside of her. An excitement she could hardly contain. The LORD was doing a new thing! An urgency to pray harder gripped her. Whatever the LORD’s plans, she wanted to be a part of it. For her, the LORD was a pearl of great value, worth any price.
Mary had no idea what was going on, but she knew Herod to be Judea’s arrogant, unpredictable king and Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, a priest in the temple. An explosive combination. What forces were at play?
A knock on the post below interrupted her thoughts. No! Has an hour gone by already? She peeked down into the breezeway. She covered her face with her hands and cringed. Joseph. As children he had played in the neighbor’s pond, caught frogs from local streams, and had helped her with her lambs. Her best friend. But he had gone and changed everything when he asked her father’s permission to marry her. Which means he knew. Mary stifled a groan.
How humiliating! Jonas, her wretched brother, had told Joseph she had begun her monthlies and was of marriageable age now. Her face burned with embarrassment. Joseph was not her idea of a husband! Regardless, one discussion led to another and now they were legally betrothed.
In celebration of the betrothal, Joseph had built her a handcrafted manger for the lambs she raised. Everyone thought it odd. Mary, however, had been begrudgingly moved by it. Together they had saved that struggling lamb. When he gave her the manger he whispered, “May we never forget our unblemished lamb.” Joseph is a good man. And as my husband, he understands my need to pray. At that last thought, her eyes lit up.
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