I will be naked soon for the rending of my garments.
Hairless too. The women assure me grief softens with time. Not mine. The pain in my mother’s heart is like Job’s pottery shards. Never will the knife-edged fragments cease to cut me from the inside out.
The women grip my wrists to keep my nails from my face. “You will be ugly.”
What do I care? I have no need, no desire, for beauty.
For a husband. I have John now. My Jesus presented him to me, and me to him, a parting gift. Dear John, the only one who refused to flee—trembling, bleating, denying.
I knew his worth from the start.
I sensed it from the very beginning. In that moment when I heard his first wet breath and mewling cry. A seemingly ordinary infant until you drew close and felt the urge to be with, listen to, learn from. What? What can a mere babe know? Any other? Nothing. This one? Everything, and more.
Joseph stood behind me in that place, during that moment. “It is . . . He is . . . as the angels said.”
I felt my thoughts and Joseph’s melt together. On a silver mist of breath, my words met the night air.
“This child will change everything. Everyone.”
With a contraction, a wringing in my womb, my consciousness withdrew from Joseph’s. I envisioned a grape press—ancient and of stone—pressing, crushing, seeming to destroy my boy.
There in the stable, I tried to stand but failed. Bending at the waist, I drove my fists into my gut. A growl of a moan worked its way up and out of me. I shook my head, felt the whip of wet hair in my eyes. Again and again. On the ground, my tears soaked the clumps of dung.
Every day after, as he grew into his destiny, this was my prayer: “Not today, LORD. Nor tomorrow. One more day, Master. He is my precious boy child. Let him live to teach, to heal, to love, another day. He will have all of eternity to live and reign with you. Please. Just a few more …”
The women hover, their hands and fingers insects close to my face.
I swat and moan. “Leave. Me. Be.”
Focusing on the Temple Mount, I murmur a different prayer: “Take me, Abba, sooner than later. Today, please? I long to see my son, caress his cheek, kneel before him.”
I consider the rope on the bucket in the well.
Elizabeth travels this way. She sent word. Hours, no, days, spent mourning our sons will perhaps be a comfort. For a season, they outshone all the stars of this world. A season so brief. Until evil men dimmed them for the sake of pride, power, pleasure even.
Perhaps we will starve together, Elizabeth and me. Call it fasting. We have no appetites. They died with our sons. Moses himself could bring manna and we would turn away. Bow our heads, purse our lips.
I will let Elizabeth hold me then I will cradle her fragile, diminished frame. After I free her bundled hair from its braided knot, my fingers will comb through its coarse grayness.
“You pretend I am John,” I will whisper into her ear. “I will make believe you are Jesus.”
We have no need of husbands, no remaining reason to pretend we love them more than the fruit of our loins.
Jesus never resembled me. He possessed neither my round eyes nor the cleft in my chin. Still, he belonged to me. Truly, truly. I carried him in my inmost parts. His purity emerged through mine. No woman has ever, will ever again, do what I have done. My life will be the death of me.
“He will save his people from their sins,” the angel prophesied to Joseph.
My confession is the world’s victory: I despise the most glorious purpose the world has ever known. The LORD knows and loves me still.
How can there still be fools? Have you not seen? Have you not heard?
No, he was not beautiful, other than to me. Most did not recognize his not-of-this-world-ness. A few, though, knew if you sat at his feet or knelt before him, you could sometimes glimpse heaven’s light. But only if you positioned your heart at the perfect angle of understanding.
The shalom of Yahweh—a greeting, a farewell, a covenant, an overwhelming peace—would engulf you for all time when you were surrounded by the light that was Jesus.