Today is my wife’s birthday. She probably wouldn’t want you to know her age, but it’s the time it took the Israelites to get from the Red Sea to the Jordan River.
I still remember the first time I heard my now wife’s name, “Maria Hanna,” mentioned in conversation.
I had no idea how she would live up to her name.
Hannah, after all, was a weeping, trusting woman, who longed for the blessing of children…and who longed to see her children bless the Lord. Her faith brought about the prophetic voice (Samuel) through whom God would give us the house of David, the line of our Lord Jesus.
And “Maria,” of course, is the most renowned woman’s name in history, the name of our Christ’s mother. And I see much of the quiet, fearsome beauty the Lord praised in her also in the face of my bride.
Things didn’t turn out the way I planned my life. The Lord pulled me out of politics and rekindled a call to ministry. As husband and wife, we’ve lived together through some unbelievably happy (and one miserable) ministry experiences. We were together through infertility, miscarriages, adoptions, births and a lot more. Through it all she’s had the same quiet, gentle spirit.
We’re not a “power couple.” That’s because I don’t know how to get anywhere close to the power she has.
Hannah’s power in Scripture is not in horses or chariots or in plans or in schemes. Her strength, she sings, “is exalted in the Lord” as her heart “exults in the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:1).
Our Lord’s mother first shows up in the story of Scripture as a picture of submission, “Let it be according to your word.” Mary doesn’t summon the angel to her well in Nazareth. She doesn’t, like Saul, “kick against the goads.” She, with almost preternatural calm, believes what Eve (and Eve’s mate) didn’t believe before: that God’s will is for her good. And when Mary cries out against injustice and evil, she sings. She sings, in fact, a song that echoes the song of Hannah long before (compare 1 Sam. 2:1-10 with Lk. 1:46-55).
Is it any wonder God’s messenger and God’s Spirit pronounce the Virgin to be a “favored one” (Lk. 1:27) and as “blessed among women” (Lk. 1:42)? She exhibits exactly what the Spirit tells us through the Apostle Peter is that “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:4).
That quietness and gentleness our Father loves in our Lord’s mother is not a mousiness; it’s not being muzzled by her culture or certainly by any man. The quiet spirit comes from the fact that she “does not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6).
My Maria’s quietness, I have recognized in retrospect, was peace. She trusted the Lord to provide her with a husband, with a family, or with whatever else he had for her. The quietness was also submission. She was submissive to her future husband, whoever he was to be, and not to any other man. She guarded her affections, her attachments and her expectations.
That kind of fearless quietness is the joyful reason that, while I’ve worried about all kinds of things in my life, I’ve never (not once!) worried about Maria divorcing me or mistreating our five sons or flying into a hot rage or a cold war. It’s the reason she was able to grieve the loss of children through miscarriage even as she planned baby showers for women who had gotten pregnant around the same time she did, and why she’d be there at her friends’ baby delivery wards with flowers and genuine happiness.
And her gentle power is what I hope is seen clearly by the five young men we’re raising together. They’ll grow up in a culture of women pictured as having value based simply on what men think of them, for their sexual attractiveness or sexual availability or their earning power or the sheer force of their wills. Even in the so-called “conservative” subculture in America, the exact same phenomenon persists in the bombastic, sarcastic warrior princesses on the talking-head argument shows on television, or lampooning their enemies via social media.
Every day, though, my sons see a peaceful woman who submits to the Lord and to a man…but only to one man.
And through it all, she’s shown me what it means that the woman is “the glory of man” (1 Cor. 11:7). I find her glorious, and through her I’ve seen what Christic glory is, for men and women, not self-seeking assertion but Father-trusting humility (Phil. 2:5-11).
On her birthday, I am thankful to God for giving me this gentle, mysterious, life-affirming, powerful woman as my wife. Blessed is she among women, and blessed is the One who gave her life.