I made my way through the crowd as best I could. There’s always a crowd when Jesus shows up. I was alone that day, having once again sequestered myself away from my family and into the solitude of my inner landscape. I happened to stumble upon the gathering, having stopped my internal monologue long enough to hear somebody say, “Jesus is coming.” And I followed them until I found myself where He would be.
The thought of seeing Jesus fueled a kind of desperation in me, and I’m afraid I found myself a little rude, forcing my way to the front to get a better view. I’m near sighted you see, and I really wanted to see Jesus. Most of the time, He’s a blur anyway, but if a little brassiness could give me a clear picture, then so be it, and God help those in my way.
There I was in front, and I noticed a woman with a bunch of kids beside me. She was a tall, regal black woman, wearing glasses, and I wondered if, like me, she’d thrust herself to the front to see Jesus with myopic eyes. Her skin was the color of Georgia pecans, and when she saw me she smiled, an expansive gap-toothed African smile. I thought to myself, “How beautiful.” And her kids swirled and circled around her like a halo.
Jesus is patient, and if you want to see Him, sometimes you have to wait, much longer than you anticipated. By now the noon sun was high in the sky, and my new best friend and I were deep in conversation. Her name is Mary. A good, Bible name I’d said. Every Mary in the Bible is a blessed one. We’d talked about everything: being God’s women, writing, poetry, men, and children. Lord, did we talk about children. She had seven. So do I. We yakked amid her admonishments to her little charges. I marveled at her soft, but strong rebukes. I sympathized with her whispered, “sorry”, when she imagined the constant interruptions bothered me, but she need not apologize. I understood. So many times when we talked I nodded my head and thought, ‘me, too.” I admired her. Here was a strong black woman. I was alone and stumbled upon Jesus. She came on purpose, pressing her way with seven kids in tow. She wanted them to see Jesus, too.
Then Jesus came. He stood in front, and we were close enough to touch Him. Beloved, Jesus is always close enough to touch, if you press your way in order to be nearer. We listened to his teaching, and drank Him in. I saw in Mary my own thirst for Him. I watched as His word transformed her, and in turn, I was transformed. Mary’s youngest, a sweet little cherub that looked like the personification of the word “hand-full” began to squirm on her lap. He was named after the poet prophet, and he was hungry, clutching after her breasts, a little whiny. Jesus stopped. Just like that he stopped his teaching and looked at the crowd. He said, “Is anyone else hungry?”
Like stunned sheep, we shook our collective head in the affirmative and I watched Jesus do a wondrous thing. He looked at Mary and said, “Can you share what you have?”
Mary said yes.
Jesus reached out His hand, and she fumbled in her tote bag and pulled out seven “lunchmates”. Those are the little pre-packaged ensembles found in the luncheon meat aisles in the grocery store. Sometimes they are high tech, complete with a soft drink and candy, but these were basic--just circles of turkey meat, a block of American cheese slices, and crackers.
“I only need one,” Jesus said to her.
We were silent, watching Jesus open the plastic package. He pulled out a cracker, which he extended toward Mary. “I am the bread that feeds you,” Jesus said, “I am your sustenance. You may think you have the lowliest portion—a ninety-nine cents lunchmate, without the candy and drink. A meal judged unworthy by mothers who believe themselves to be better than you. But I am your Lunch Mate, and I Am the hand that feeds you, too. I Am your Drink, and the Sweetness in your mouth. Eat and drink of Me, and be satisfied.”
I watched as Mary ate from Jesus’ own hand. I watched him feed her children. I waited, until he fed me too, from the meager meal she gave, and God, it was sooooo good. He fed the business man sitting next to me, and the homeless woman who sat by the business man. Jesus fed us all, from a single lunchmate, and we were all filled.
When it was time to go, I hugged my friend, and we cried together and rejoiced.
“Did you see what Jesus did?” she asked. “He fed us all. And he blessed my kids. Everyone of them.”
“I saw it,” I said, confirming her best dream. “I saw Jesus bless all seven of your children. You are blessed Mary. Just like the Bible Marys. Your children have made you rich.”
We left, still crying and laughing and talking too loud, and promising to keep in touch. I thought of her all the way home. I thought about her stories, and her hurts. She is a woman reviled and talked about because she has too many children. How different things are from a long time ago when children were the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb His reward.
How blessed is Mary among women in this time.
I made it home, and kissed my sweet husband, Ken. I went to all the kids. I kissed them, and hugged them, each and every one. I blessed them just like Jesus would.
In love and mercy,