Pain and heartache are part of the equation too, however. Deep gratitude has, more often than not, been tested in the fires of hardship. Standing on the side of Golgotha helpless to intervene as her son was tortured to death very surely broke Mary’s heart. Perhaps witnessing so great a tragedy would have been less painful had she not treasured any of those moments up. Then she would not have had to remember the sound of his newborn cry when he let out cries of anguish from the cross. She would not have the shepherd’s ‘good’ news mocking her as the women prepared his body for burial. Pain and heartache is what separates the life of appreciation from the life of bitterness. After all… what is bitterness besides the preserving and pondering over that which has caused the pain and heartache? Some of the most reflective people are some of the most bitter people; for a bitter life is a life lived in reflection.
No doubt Mary had a choice to make as she stood on the crowded hill outside of Jerusalem. She could trade the shepherd’s good news of a savior in for the sound of her son’s last gasps for air. She could trade every last one of those little moments she’d been treasuring up… it would be easy to do. The pain she felt could easily swallow them all in one hungry gulp. She could replace her aching heart with a gnawingly satisfying bitterness by replaying the injustice of his death over and over in the coming weeks, months and years.
But even in this moment a small sprout of hope still existed that forced her to choose the life of appreciation. Even when wrapping her son’s cold, life-less body in burial cloths she couldn’t shake the promise God had given her – the promise that was to be for all people, “A Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”