A Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul

A Sword Shall Pierce Your Own Soul

My six year old son almost died today. I know that sounds overly dramatized, since he didn’t, but he easily could have.

I was standing in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher. I had sent the boys out to play in the freshly fallen Minnesota snow. I heard Tobin, my older son, race into the porch and start banging on the kitchen door. I opened it with a “Well?” expression on my face, and then saw his face of panic. “Mom, hurry! Ian is buried under a lot of snow!”

They’d been digging a snow cave in the huge pile of snow behind the garage left by the alley plow. Tobin was around the corner of the garage when he heard, faintly, the sound of Ian crying. He came around the corner to find that the snow cave had collapsed on Ian. He had the presence of mind to find Ian’s face and scoop out the snow around it, so he could breathe, and then he ran to get me.

In the kitchen, I paused long enough to grab my coat, then sprinted out. I came around the corner of the garage to see only the side of Ian’s face. The rest of his body was buried. I waded into the snow bank in my slippers, grabbed the neck of his snow suit, and heaved. He came out, plastered all over in snow, still crying, but unhurt. We brought him inside, pulled off his snowsuit, and a cup of cocoa soon had him warmed and soothed.

I was not soothed. I couldn’t stop trembling. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw up.

The what-ifs crowded in. What if Ian had been outside by himself? What if Tobin hadn’t been able to hear him? What if Tobin had responded to his crying with the more typical brotherly response of ignoring it? What if they’d dug deeper in? What if the snow had been heavier? What if…what if…. I may die of the what-ifs before the for-certains ever get to me.

As I finished the dishes, I thought about how the worst part of motherhood is all those what-ifs. The almosts. The moments when you confront, not your own mortality, but that of your children. It’s like screeching up to the edge of the deepest canyon, and fearing most after you realize you stopped in time.

And I thought about Mary. How Simeon told her, “And a sword shall pierce your own soul.” He told her this after she had the baby. Would she have been able to say, “Be it unto me according to Your Word,” if she had heard about the sword before?

Mary lived in a time when the Roman sword was an ever-present reality, keeping the Jews in check, reminding them of their servitude to an empire that would just as soon kill Jews as keep them. Perhaps when she heard Simeon’s words, she would have thought of the Roman swords and the damage they could do to her 8-day old newborn. And indeed, not long after, all of the other babies in Bethlehem were put to the sword. When she heard the news of the slaughter in Egypt, did she think, “There! That was the sword”?

Was it a comfort for her to know that her boy was going to grow up to be the most significant Jew ever? Would that have given her confidence that he would not die in a mundane accident? Or did she feel more pressure to protect the Son of God? Did she even realize that Jesus was going to die?

Was she able to take joy in watching him grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men? As she saw him begin to use his power, did she watch him with eyes that also watched for the sword? Where would it come from? And did it have to mean his death? Or would it just mean her own–surely more preferable!

And in some small ways, surely her own sword was a reflection of a sword in the Father’s heart, too. He knew even better than she what His only Son was going to suffer. And He sent Him anyway. And she acquiesced–said, “Let it be to Your servant as You have said.” She pressed forward, raising the Son of God, knowing the sword was ahead. The Father pressed forward, pressing events He had crafted before the dawn of time to the culmination of His Son’s bloody and tortured death.

You see a glimpse of another kind of sword, when Mary and the rest of her sons come to convince Jesus to come home and eat and rest, and He is in the middle of a crowded house, teaching and healing. And He tells the crowd that His REAL mother and brothers are those who believe in Him and obey Him. Did that feel like a sword, Mary? Did you see Him slipping further away from you as He traveled and taught and healed and offended? Did your unease grow as the anger of the Jewish leaders spread? Did you struggle to let go of the Jesus you bore and nursed and mothered?

And here I think of myself again. Is my letting go harder or easier than hers? I know just as surely that my son is in God’s hands. I know God’s plan in his life will be accomplished, whether he dies at age 6 in a collapsed snow fort (not today, thank you Lord!) or at age 96 in bed, surrounded by children and grandchildren. But it’s the not knowing that’s hard. Mary knew that there would be a sword. She just didn’t know when. I guess, after all, that’s the same thing. For there is a sword, for every mother. And none of us know when it will fall.

Ultimately, the most important sword that pierced Mary’s heart was the sword of Hebrews 4:12. It was the living, God-become-man Word of God, piercing to divide her joints and marrow, bringing her to believe in the One who pierced her, and the One who was pierced for her.

Lord, thank you for protecting my boy today. May I allow the piercing of this mother’s sword to pierce me again with the knowledge that you hold us–me and my children and all of us–in Your hands, and You ask me to trust in You. Pierce my soul with the penetrating edge of Your Word, and the Logos Himself. In this season of preparing to celebrate His birth, help me to see in my own children an echo of Your Son–a whisper of Your Father-heart that wept and exulted as you sent your only Son to suffer and to redeem, so that He might also reign. Let the sword that pierces my mother-heart be a thing that brings me back to Your Son. Let Him reign in my heart this season and always. Lord, be it unto me according to Thy Word.

LBH
12/3/07

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~ by Michael on December 4, 2007.

5 Responses to “A Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul”

  1. I find it interesting that there are three significant times Mary’s soul may have been pierced. Wonderful Post, thank you for it.

  2. Praise God for the safety of your child!

  3. Thank you for explaining this phrase! I googled it and came straight here. I understand now! May God continue to bless you and your family! Happy Holidays!

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