Here she stood at the foot of the cross, everything inside of her wished to be in a different place, anywhere but there. Anyplace, yet nothing could keep her from being exactly where she stood. Her feet set one beside the other, anchored to the earth as close as the executioners would permit her to stand. She knew her place was there. She had come to the moment in time that Simeon predicted the first time she came to Jerusalem with her infant son held safely in her arms. As he prophesied about His life, he prophesied about her, too.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” Luke 2:34-35
Knowing it would happen some day and experiencing are two very different realities. As she stood at the foot of the cross forced to breath the hot, steaming moisture exhaled by the crowds pressing into her, throwing insults on Him fueled a putrid atmosphere of hatred spewing over her and spilling down like a sickness from which she could not escape. She turned her eyes and focused on the sight of her innocent Son smeared in his own blood, naked, bruised and tortured hung up like a common criminal. She was forbidden to even touch Him, nevertheless save Him from this outrage. If she wanted to be there for Him, she had to deny her natural passions to drag Him down from that cross and away from those brutal humans. On that day so filled with horrors stacked upon horrors, she forced her mind to take in the tender words of her Son. He spoke with bated breath. It took all He had to muster so few words:
“Woman, here is your son, her eyes meet His then followed those swollen slits as they gazed towards John and stated: Here is your mother.”
A torturous loss like this is so personal and intimate that it is impossible to describe. Here she stood in the cruelest place she has ever stood, it is the hardest place God has ever asked her to be. She was utterly powerless to push back the personal horror of her existence. How could she do it?
She had a strength that did not betray her. She had something that enabled her to stay until the end. She didn’t focus much on the words her Son just used his labored breath to speak. The last thought on her mind was how she would survive the world as a widow. Nothing demanded her attention but Him. She was there for Him. She was being strong for Him.
Where did she get the strength? She had been prepared for this moment. She wasn’t chosen haphazardly by any means. God had been asking the impossible of her since she was a young woman. She knew that brutal realities have a way or turning out for the good when God allows them. When God sent an angel to ask her to accept a crisis pregnancy before she was wed, He sent her to a strong God-devoted couple Zechariah and Elizabeth to nurture and sustain her as she witnessed their own miracle of God’s grace, the birth of John the Baptist. Somehow this helped her when she returned to face her fiancé’s rejection of her pregnant state. She waited until God showed him in a dream that he was to take her as his wife. She lived as a sojourner in the land of Egypt until it was safe for her to return to her hometown in Nazareth. She overcame the overwhelming experience of becoming a widow, and watched her Son become an outcast from the religion she had devoted her life to follow, all without her husband by her side.
And then she stood there. This was by far the deepest valley of her life. How would she survive this personal hell? She didn’t know, all she knew is that she would never leave the side of her Son as long as there was breath in Him. How could she? It was not in her. So, there she stood, breathing in, breathing out, willing herself to live, willing herself to ignore the crushing atmosphere of hatred and mocking. That was her place. She endured the emotional torture of this morning and afternoon, that seemed to last for eternity, because she was his mom and that is what mothers do. God gave her a strength to endure the emotional piercing like a sword thrust deep into her heart, far more painful than that image implies, and she wished she could be anywhere but there. Yet it was the only place a mother could be.