I don’t know about birthing babies, but I can tell you about making noodles.
It began as a fun skill to impress party guests and my one-day husband, but as I ducked into the stone kitchen in the center of Florence, Italy, I soon realized pasta-making is not an idle pastime, but a sacred trust. I tied back my hair and took a deep breath.
My palms cupped a handful of flour, leading it in a circular motion to create a “well” for the watery mixture to follow. Then, with a fork, my wrist meticulously twisted the powder and liquid together as it dependably, like a slow-motion magic trick, began to feel doughy. I kneaded the cold dough with my fumbling fingers, my impatience growling in tune with my stomach. Slicing the mush and massaging a piece into a snake-like section, I held up my accomplishment: one scrawny piece of pasta. One.
Again, I was instructed. I resumed cupping, twisting, kneading and rolling, holding up my second piece with a little less pride.
Hold it up to the first, I was told, as a hand redirected mine from the boiling pot back to the counter. I was to place the pieces in line for comparison. They were two straggly opposites— one long, one short, the first smooth, the second rough. Yet, somehow, both composed of the exact same ingredients. My brow furrowed, while my instructor’s remained level as he ushered me into his favorite art form. Fine tuning the individual pasta pieces was a disciplined craft—contouring the length, smoothing the edges, adding more flour—and considering each new piece of pasta in light of what was already there revealed a deliciously enjoyable whole.
As I worked the dough with my hands that day, it became clear that this was the Italian way: savoring over striving.
Mary of Nazareth’s most frequented activity would fit right in with this way of life: treasuring.
Though she had plenty of chances to act from her flesh, Mary opted to serve the Lord by savoring her collection of things she knew to be true.
When Jesus is born, others jump up to share the good news. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).
And later, instead of flying off the handle when she finds her son in the temple after three days of searching, Mary treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).
And while I’m tempted to believe the angel gave Mary a homework pass on suffering, I don’t think her fears were ever numbed or all her questions answered. It’s easy to paint Mary’s character with the joy of Christmas, stringing words like “chosen” and “favored” above her, but I think we forget that culturally and emotionally, she was chosen and favored to walk a lonely and scary path.
Mary, mother of Jesus and servant of the Lord—clad in maternal instincts and love for her son—was the only one present at both Jesus’ birth and crucifixion. Do I think “treasuring it all” meant passively standing by? Oh no, friends. I believe Mary was busy fiercely clinging to the treasured promises of God.
As her circumstances continued to unfold, she was cupping her palms in prayer, pondering outcomes and recalling truths. As if carefully crafting an elegant Italian dish, Mary was actively fighting for the truth with the Truth, massaging the day’s events into her knowledge of God, savoring His promises over her striving.
Mary championed the measured words of my cooking teacher: hold it up to the first. She wrapped God’s promises up in trust, then held each new development—the words of an angel, the rampage of skeptics, a miracle performed, a cross prepared—up to those promises for comparison, again and again. Her arms carried a bundle of treasures that continued to point her to God’s good plan.
So what does the virgin mother’s story leave for you and me? An invitation to usher Jesus in closer, to hold His life within us by treasuring His Word and presence.
As servants of the Lord, let’s join together today in treasuring His promises, for they are sure.