As she pondered the Virgin Mary's footsteps during the season of Lent, Johanna Stamps came to a new understanding of purpose.
For years, I’ve thought discovering your purpose was like getting a plaque that you can post on the wall. Then, this Lenten season, I recognized something striking about the Virgin Mary’s understanding of purpose: She didn’t receive a plaque at the Annunciation with her purpose, she only received a small insight, and then she walked closely with God. It wasn’t until she was at the foot of the cross that she could, perhaps, look back and see where God was leading her.
Walking in Mary’s footsteps, I see how our sense of purpose can have new dimensions, even years down the road. As I reflected more, I saw that Mary’s unfolding purpose, throughout her life, can offer direction and solace as I continue my own walk.
For years, I have thought that Mary’s full purpose was given to her at The Annunciation: “‘You have found favor with God … Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son … You shall call him Jesus … He will be great … He will reign over the house of Jacob forever… The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”
These are beautiful, prophetic words, but the more I look at them, the more I realise they focus mainly on what is about to happen to Mary and then what Jesus will become. She needed to walk farther to gain more understanding of what this meant for her life.
I remember sitting in the doctor’s office receiving confirmation of the news about my own little one’s pending arrival. While it missed the prophetic insight an aspect of my purpose was revealed: the vocation of motherhood.
How I fought against this. At the time, I was just starting out in a leadership role in a software company and was excited about what was ahead. Had I received the “big picture” at that moment I don’t think I would have appreciated it. I needed to walk closely with God and keep my eyes open for what was next.
While the Annunciation is beautiful, I’m certain Mary was left with questions burning on her heart about what lay ahead.
The Hidden Years
At this current phase in my understanding of purpose, I can most identify with Mary and Jesus’s hidden years. The years only referenced in passing. This was 30 years of guiding, teaching, growing, having patience, talking to Jesus, loving him… maybe even some ancient version of potty training.
Mary just lived.
She didn’t get distracted by side projects. Maybe she sold goods, perhaps handcrafted beautiful things, but they didn’t become a priority. She brought love into the work in front of her. She prioritised God and her family.
My heart can still ache for those days when I was aspiring to do good work in business. I often can’t imagine that loving and tending to a small boy can have the same level of importance. The world can’t see these tender moments.
And yet it’s in these tender moments that I have more of a sense of purpose than I ever thought I would. Simply seeing my little one fold his hands when we’re starting to pray makes my heart sing with Joy.
The Wedding Feast
It wasn’t until the Wedding Feast at Cana (when Jesus was 30) that she advocated for people to listen to her son: “Do what he tells you.” Just by being, she was walking into the next part of her calling. She was drawing others close to her son.
Like every other mother, Mary was uniquely created to love and serve her son. I don’t know what will be ahead for me. This is where I can only guess about where God is taking me and the little one. This is where I continue to quietly walk in faith.
The Foot of the Cross
Then finally, at the foot of the cross, the fullness of Mary’s purpose is revealed. There, her son’s blood is dripping down, maybe even mingling with the blood of the last person crucified on the same cross. Jesus looks down and sees her, even in this wicked moment, consoling others. She continues to love as a mother.
During Lent, I have spent time pondering the life of the Virgin Mary, especially her experience witnessing the suffering of Jesus on the cross. As a mother of a little boy, I now identify with her in a new way. It’s only in this excruciating moment that Mary receives another step in her purpose.
Suddenly, her world is again changed when Jesus says, “Behold your son … Behold your mother.” It becomes clear that Mary will indeed be the spiritual mother to the disciples.
As I find myself at the end of Lent with Mary at the foot of the cross, she offers that motherly solace: “Don’t worry so much about your purpose, Johanna. Be my son’s hands and feet in the world. Love others and let God continue to reveal how he will use you and your motherhood.”
Copyright 2021 Johanna Stamps
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About the Author
Johanna is a writer and life coach -- helping overwhelmed mothers find a sense of purpose, peace and presence. After 10 years of working with entrepreneurs in Africa, Johanna has returned to the US, becoming a first-time mother at 39 and embracing a household with three generations. The best part of Johanna’s day is praying the Rosary during her morning hike with her little one.