“So [the shepherds] hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”1
“When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to
In the Christmas story, we find that Mary pondered all the happenings during Christ’s birth and stored them in her heart. Many years later, once again, we find her pondering during Jesus’ pre-teen years. It seems there are no two better times to reflect on life than at the birth of and at the beginning of those hormonal pre-teen years of your child’s life! Yet at both these times, more than others it seems, chaos is ever-present. So why ponder?
Dictionary.com defines ponder as, “to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate or to weigh carefully in the mind; consider thoughtfully.”
While pondering can conjure up images of quiet stillness or contemplative space, it is more of a recognizing those “Aha! moments” in the ordinariness of life. To recognize these moments takes a certain amount of focus and attending to. This attention can come naturally at times and also become a discipline to practice.
We will be more disposed toward moments of extraordinary awe if we have been attending all along to wonder and awe in the ordinary. ~Herbert Anderson
Small children in particular are no strangers to awe, of course, but kids of all ages invite us into this experience. Attending all along to children means we adults are also permitted to see the truly awesome – not only to wonder at them, as fond parents readily do, but also to see and share their own wonder at the world. Children both catch our attention and reorient it. Being present to all the ways in which they are growing – to their focus and pursuits, their curiosity and capacities – also leads us to deeper faith. If attended to, if noticed, if pondered, the routine of caring for kids in ordinary time offers us ample opportunity for wonder, for entering as adults more deeply and alertly into the presence of God.
Of course, pondering doesn’t fit well within chaotic busy schedules, and sometimes we are forced to prioritize and scale down so that the holy has a chance to be. But even working within the chaos, we will miss so much if we are not aware of the moments worthy of treasuring in our hearts. Mary was a mother, and we know that role all too well. “…pondering ultimately involves accepting limits and realities that go beyond our understanding. Pondering includes attention, appreciation, and amazement to be sure; it embraces potential anguish too, an aspect of parenting hidden in Mary’s pondering to which we turn in the last chapter. For now, it is enough to recognize human limits in the care for others and the reality of failure and loss. Through her pondering, Mary becomes one of the first theologians of the Christian tradition, turning over and over in her mind just who this child is and what God has to do with it. She does so in the very midst of her mothering – not when she moves away from it all.”
The author ends with a story about a friend who is a pastor and a father bemoaning the fact that family devotions are not a tradition or habit in his family. He goes on to describe his daily life: “I come home midafternoon to be around when our two kids come home from school. My wife works until later in the day. We barely squeeze in dinner between her return, my evening meetings, and our kids’ activities.” Our conversation got cut off abruptly when one of his children ran up to pull him in another direction. Here’s what I wish I could have said. Although family prayer has its important place (I am not dismissing concern about its decline), prayer and scripture reading do not alone determine faith. Faith is not one more thing to check off the list. Family prayer; check. Bedtime prayer; check. Ritual for dead hamster; check. It is not something set aside outside regular time. It is what we do in time and space, with our bodies and through our movements. The practices of this man’s family – playing with the children after school, interacting around dinner, greeting and parting, attending and pondering – these practices are formative of faith. They train our eyes to see God amid change and time.
Family life is better than most any other thing going on in the universe. ~ Judith Viorst
1. Luke 2:16-19
2. Luke 2:48-51
*All font in green is taken from Chapter 3 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie Miller-McLemore.