Hi. Is this on?
I’m gonna say a thing.
It’s a theology thing.
It’s a theology and women’s bodies thing.
It’s both a public and intensely personal thing.
Christians believe in the Incarnation – that is, God, in an abundant act of love for humankind, took on a body like ours to walk among us. To be nurtured, live, teach, suffer and die among us. And (I believe) did so to prove that we NEVER stop belonging to God, and to demonstrated how much God longs to be with us. In fact, this human is known in scripture as Immanuel, “God-with-Us.”
Famously, he was born of a woman named Mary. A virgin, engaged to Joseph. This is the story we all think we know.
But before we get to all the hymns and unwed mother mentions, we have to back up a minute. Because she didn’t just turn up pregnant unexpectedly. God didn’t show up after the child was successfully born alive and say “oh hey, that one’s mine (but also me).”
God didn’t leave Mary to do all the work and then come swooping in at the end to take credit. (Though wouldn’t that have felt a familiar tune, ladies?)
No. Mary was sent a messenger ahead of time. The scripture says Mary was told, “You *will* conceive and give birth to a son,” and, when asked how this would happen, the answer is “The Spirit *will* come upon you.” (Luke 1:26-38).
Mary isn’t impregnated without her knowledge or consent. Mary gets a conversation.
She interrupts the messenger (angel). Asks questions. Explains that it’s impossible. They talk it over together.
And the messenger doesn’t leave until Mary says (in my favorite rendering of her response) “Let it be unto me as you have said.” The messenger does not leave after the announcement. The messenger does not leave until Mary has consented to the pregnancy.
I see strong consent in this passage. i see God asking and allowing time and questions from she who would be the God-bearer.
I see that same theme reflected in the child this woman raised, this Jesus who asks (in multiple instances) “Do you want to be made well?” before touching a person to heal them.
And all of this matters.
God, it matters so much. Because:
If God has to ask for consent, SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE.
If God found it important to ask a woman whether or not she wanted to carry a child, SO SHOULD EVERYONE ELSE.
If God allows time for the conversation, the questioning, the pushback, SO SHOULD EVERYONE ELSE.
It matters. It matters! It matters to me. And the more time I’ve spent reading and learning about scripture, Mary, my God and myself? The more deeply I’m convinced this matters to God, too.
Women must be afforded the ability to *consent* to carry pregnancies. Mary was given that opportunity.
My mind is full of midrashes on the NotMarys who came before her.
What of the other righteous women who considered and said no?
What of the righteous women who God would approach, but didn’t for fear of her cruel betrothed/spouse/father/community?
What of the miscarriages, the still births?
How many cycles did it take?
How many losses?
How many scares?
Because THAT is what bringing new life into the world looks like. And THAT is what the Incarnate God showed up for.
God WITH Us. Through implantation, placental attachment difficulties, deletions and obstructions and hyperemesis and vitamin deficiencies. Through anemia and high blood pressure and low liver platelets and prematurity and neural tube defects and God!
If you believe we are created and known by our Creator in the way that we Christians do, then you have to understand that our God – who subjected Godself to the entire process of conception, birth, infancy and childhood, all helpless, all dependent on God’s own creation…
That God consulted no one but a single young woman, asking if she’d carry a pregnancy.
And that woman, after consideration.
That woman, who was considered the property of her father.
That woman, whose status was dependent on her virginity.
That woman, whose future financial security and survival depended on marraige and bearing sons.
That woman, consulting no one but herself, said YES.
That is the story.
Christians follow a God who saw fit to be carried, in utter helplessness and dependence, by a woman.
God trusted her decision.
God shared her vulnerabilities.
Would suffer alongside her in sickness, carry any wounds and trauma she bore in the Incarnational body’s own makeup.
If Christians are to follow God’s example, we must do the same.
Allow people to consent to pregnancies. To talk, discuss, consider, push back. And, allow them the opportunity to say “No.”
It is important. It matters.
To remove choice is to do violence. I think there’s reason to believe God knew that.
And so must we.
Featured image: Dove with image of uterus embedded within, containing a cross with rays of light. Artist credit: Benjamin Wildflower
I’ve written more about Mary in this previous post, if you’d like to hear more.
And for those interested, I got the chance to discuss this even further on a bonus episode of The Magnificast. Check it out!
Posted with permission. Original found here.