“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” -Luke 2:19
As we journey through Advent, the response of Mary through the events of salvation have been on my mind.
Mary was intimately known by the Holy Spirit, her heart was the place of a most vulnerable exchange – God’s invitation and initiation, her full and free yes. A mystical and physical union with God in a humble handmaid.
What is most striking to me is how the life of Mary gives us a perfect picture of true and authentic vulnerability: it is centered on Christ, it gives life, it invites humanity in, it mirrors God’s love, yet it is hidden.
In her earthly life, we read very little about Our Lady in the Gospels. But what we do read paints a clear picture – vulnerability required contemplation. She pondered and prayed, and kept the glories revealed to her motherly heart hidden until God willed they be known.
This challenges me as a woman because so often the brand of vulnerability the world teaches is self-focused. We are taught vulnerability means having the courage to open to another and over share the details of our lives and hearts, we have celebrities and bloggers revealing some of the most intimate parts of their being under the guise of authentic vulnerability, we essentially have an over-indulgence of self where vulnerability is more focused on ourselves than communion with Christ.
This quote by St. Ignatius puts my feelings into better words: “Do not be too communicative with everyone. Do not admit the first comer to your intimacy, but consult the Holy Spirit and ask Him to show you to whom He wishes you to give your confidence.” Mary had so much she could have shared. She was the first catechist, the first missionary, the first evangelizer. She was without sin. She could have preached for hours on how to live virtue to the fullest. She could have shared everything that happened to her at the Annunciation to Simon, to Elizabeth, to the disciples. But at least from what we read in Scripture, she didn’t. Her intense and never fading love of God was what spoke to others and her innermost being was reserved for God alone.
Without regular prayer and contact with the Holy Spirit, our vulnerability can easily become a confused mix of over-sharing without true intimacy. How often do we seek affirmation of another human being or a sense of belonging by sharing the deepest corners of our self with those who will listen? How quick are we to share too many details of our lives without first praying if that’s what God wants of us? How many times do we think it’s a good thing because vulnerability means telling all and getting the hero badge in our culture?
I’m reminded by Mary’s example that true vulnerability begins with my heart listening for God’s invitation and initiation and have the courage to respond with my wholehearted yes. Any light I have in me, any goodness, anything worth sharing with others comes from Him. When I detach myself from that relationship with Him, my vulnerability is nothing more than a self reveal, focused inward on myself. I want my vulnerability to be with God first, then with those who will lead me to heaven – my spouse, my closest friends, my spiritual director, etc. Not just a tell all to those who will be interested in my story.
I’m always told I’m an open book and easy to read. I used to mistake that as a good quality to have – I’m vulnerable, I’m raw, I’m real. That’s good, right? In some ways, I know it can be a good quality. But in other ways, I’m taking time to consider how I share my heart and learning to go to God first in my quest for vulnerability and fulfillment.
I’m looking to Mary to teach me a more true and authentic vulnerability that will lead me to the Heart of Christ. I’m reminded that God’s ways are not our ways. The most humble and hidden on earth have become the most adored and glorified in heaven. When my heart craves intimacy from creatures, I’m choosing to ponder and keep and create in my heart a place of vulnerability that is more like Mary’s and less like our culture’s.