It’s a striking contrast to leave the lively, bright Christmas Eve party and return to my quiet apartment with my sleeping child, unable to delay his slumber over the excitement of Santa Claus and presents. The quiet is dramatic, marked by the purr of the refrigerator and the click of expanding and contracting metal in the wall heater. I consider turning on some music or a movie to intimate the hum of a lively household, but that feels almost irreverent on this night. It’s my first Christmas Eve alone with R. Probably the first of many.
It feels distant from the nights of my childhood spent in the noisy household of Grandpa and Grandma Hurst. The house was bursting with life from almost every room. So many cousins, aunts and uncles. Tables layered with food and sweets. A water fight exploding from the kitchen sink into the living room and hallway. Kids trying to hold still as the Christmas story was read from Luke 2. Santa Claus appearing through the front door with a bag of presents labeled with each of our names. It was busy and it was magic.
In the quiet tonight, I notice the peace in my home. It’s something I have started to take for granted as I contend with loneliness. I have to be watchful about that. I cannot take it for granted because peace is ground I have fought hard for.
In the quiet tonight, I think of Mary. Every year since I became a mother, I carry a deeper reverence for Mary. I think of this passage from Love Warrior, where Glennon Doyle encounters her.
“I look up higher and see that I am standing beneath a huge painting of Mary holding her baby. I look at Mary and she looks at me. My heart does not leap, it does not thud—it swells and beats steadily, insistently. My heart fills my whole chest but it does not hurt, so I do not break eye contact with Mary. Mary is lit up bright but I am in soft, forgiving light. She is wearing a gown and her face is clear. I am wearing a tube top and my face is dirty, but she is not mad at me so I do not bother to cover myself. Mary is not what people think she is. She and I are the same. She loves me, I know it. She has been waiting for me. She is my mother. She is my mother without any fear for me. I sit in front of her and want to stay here for ever, in my bare feet with Mary and her baby around this campfire of candle prayers. I do not know if I believe in Mary, but I believe in her right now. She is real. She is what I needed. She is the hiding place I’ve been looking for….
I nod and flash back twenty years. I’m at the neighborhood pool waiting in line to buy ice cream. The ice cream man is selling Popsicles for a dollar each, while a high school kid who has broken into the truck is passing out free Popsicles from the back. The ice cream man hasn’t a clue what’s going on behind him. I wonder if the priest knows that while he’s up here charging for forgiveness, Mary’s back there handing it out for free. He must not know, which is why he is insisting that God’s forgiveness has a price. I am pretending to believe this and promising to pay so I can get back to Mary, who is at the back of the truck hosting a free-for-all.
…I get stuck on that phrase as it runs through my mind. Free for all. Maybe grace is free. Free for the taking. Maybe it’s even free for me. This free-for-all overwhelms me, fills me, covers me, convinces me. I decide to believe. Something says yes to the idea that there is a God and that this God is trying to speak to me, trying to love me, trying to invite me back to life. I decide to believe in a God who believes in a girl like me.” Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle
Mary’s voice is the one that says you are enough, you always have been and you always will be. Mary understands that sometimes love hurts so much that you have to numb it away. “She had understood: A woman doesn’t need to be told, yet again, that she’s bad. She needs to be told that she’s good. Mary didn’t ask me to repent. She asked me to rest,” (Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle).
So tonight, in the quiet, I’ll sit and think of Mary. She knows how it feels to be alone and tired and good and unworthy and fearful and hopeful and grounded and uncertain.