A Psalm for Elizabeth

Mary was young when the angel came,
on the verge of marriage and motherhood,
and to be sure, God’s plans for her
would make these things look wildly different
from anything she expected or imagined,
but all the same, Mary was expecting
to be expecting, whatever the method:
a home with spouse and children of her own.

Elizabeth, however, was not.
Past her prime, past all hope
of a home full of her own family,
disgraced and shamed in her community,
perhaps even thought to be cursed.
Elizabeth did not have Mary’s expectations of life.
No doubt years of disappointments
had taken those from her.
I wonder if she felt bitter
toward God or toward a universe
that flatly refused to give her
the one thing she dreamed of.
Or perhaps it was herself she blamed
for her empty womb, bereft of fruit.
Maybe she did both.

Whatever the case, when the angel appears
to Elizabeth, it is pure miracle and gift.
A new vista opens before her, a new story
wildly different from the one
her community would have told about her,
different from the story she probably
believed about herself.

I’m probably not as old as Elizabeth,
but I’m single like Mary was,
and like Elizabeth, I’m losing hope
of ever having a family of my own.
Especially in these days, and
especially this time of year,
the silence of my empty house is deafening,
this loneliness a crushing pressure on my heart,
and the stories I’m starting to believe about myself
sound a lot like the stories Elizabeth probably did,
and even she at least had Zechariah!

I truly believe that God is one
who deals in the impossible and the unexpected;
God is the giver of miracles and the changer of stories.
And I know it’s a dangerous prayer to pray
to a God who loves surprises, but
still I ask: Please, God,
take my story of loneliness and transform it
into something wildly different.


image source

(It’s maybe not the most poetic poem, but it was originally composed as kind of a free-form psalm. My Advent practice last year was composing a daily psalm and this one suddenly came to mind as I prepare to preach on the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth this Sunday)

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