Life, I’m realizing, is one new beginning after another. And sometimes, those beginnings require serious mental adjustment.
When I started my career as a high school teacher, way back in 1997, I was that not much older than the students I was teaching. For a while, in my secret soul, I struggled to accept the image of myself as a teacher. When I’d tell the students to open their books and start reading, a little part of me was shocked that they did so. Wow! I’d think to myself. They’re actually listening to me!
A few years later, I had another, more thrilling new beginning. Scott and I stood in front of a flower-flanked tabernacle and promised that we’d journey through life together. And as much as I loved being married, I will admit that it was a dramatic adjustment. For several months, my hand stumbled over my new signature. I’d mention “my husband” in the course of conversation, and the words sounded strange to my ear, as if I’d temporarily stolen someone else’s identity.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m holding my first son, Matthew. I’m looking at his sleek dark head and realizing that all other changes pale in comparison to this one, this blessed event, the arrival of a little person who would depend on me in a way that no one ever had before. Like many new moms, I was daunted by the magnitude of the task. I felt like a fraud taking home this child when I was so full of questions about how to comfort him when he cried, how to nurse him, how to swaddle him. It was joy and terror combined.
Then, two years later, I was in the hospital again for the arrival of Luke. I was an experienced mom who could navigate her way around a diaper bag and knew how to handle tantrums, yet I was entering a new identity as the mother of two children. Luke was his own person, that was clear from the start; certain things that worked with the infant Matthew were not successful with him. And I learned to start over, letting go of preconceived notions and responding to the wonderful uniqueness of my Lukey, who always keeps me guessing.
This is how life is, right? The new starts just keep coming; they never stop. And each brings its own period of adjustment. Even the positive changes can feel stiff and uncomfortable at first, like a pair of shoes right out of the box. Luckily, with time and use, we break them in. Eventually, there comes a day when we can’t imagine how it felt to wear anything else.
And as we celebrate New Year’s, the day of new beginnings, I love that we celebrate Mary, too. Her own life is a catalogue of new starts and corresponding adjustments. There’s the Annunciation, and her unexpected new identity as the Mother of God. There’s her marriage, and the birth of her son. Shortly thereafter, she has to make a new start as a refugee in Egypt. Scroll forward a few decades, and she is now the mother of a famous man, who stirs up controversy everywhere he goes. There’s her piercing pain at the execution of her son, and then her joy at seeing him alive again – which, to me and surely to her, is the most beautiful new start in the history of humankind. And, of course, there is her presence at Pentecost, the birth of the Church in which so many of us make our home.
Mary navigated her way through a sea of new beginnings, beginnings that were joyful and daunting and confusing and terrifying. While it’s tempting to look at images of her and see only serenity, there was actually fierce courage and tremendous tenacity in this young girl from Galilee. Mary is the poster child for resilience, and that is always worth remembering.
Like all of us, I don’t know exactly what 2011 will hold for me. I can’t say which aspects of Mary’s story will resonate most strongly with me. But I love knowing that through every new start, through every fresh beginning, I’ve got a pretty amazing woman in my corner. If I let her teach me strength and faith, she will. That is always worth remembering, today and every day.
Copyright 2010 Ginny Kubitz Moyer