Provision


Post Author: Kathryn Lester-Bacon


And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus….Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her…“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:28-40, selections)

author's baby

Luke does not record
what the neighbors say
but the comments are there,

crouching behind the text.
When the messenger says, “Favored One!”
we can almost hear the echoing

“You?”

Luke does not
mention it,
but, guaranteed: Mary knows

it’s there. She knows
when it’s known
that she’s been known,

the greetings will change.
The power of God will not stop
the side-eye. Yet, perhaps

when this babe
opens a tiny mouth
with a vast hunger

and she is able to fill it,
for the time being, a grace
so consuming, a provision

so merciful will bear her
through pain and recoil, this gift
that she agrees to give

from her own body. And so,
she assents, says yes
to the messenger, to the neighbors

whispering, to the burden
and bearing; yes, to the aching arm
and ragged eyelids; yes

to the shattered, sharded
heart that will be filled,
emptied,

filled again, continuously,
across a long string of days.
Mary says yes; agrees

to bear birth and death
in the same yawning
word.

*

A friend of mine,
a pastor, a mother,
drove to the deathbed

of a beloved
church member,
a teenage girl.

At home she left
her newborn son,
in order to accompany

this daughter, sister,
child of God,
into her death.

As this pastor kept vigil
at the bedside—grieving,
pained—she felt

her breasts
growing heavier,
becoming saturated

with the sustenance
that would keep
her own son sated

and alive. In vigil,
her body began to weep
in salt and milk; tears

spilling from her eyes,
nipples leaking liquid.
Nothing she could do

would contain or control
these life-filling breasts
or the teen’s dying breaths.

Each
offered itself up,
wholly.

Salt and milk,
both erupt
from the depths

of the body, sometimes
without assent,
irrepressible,

irresistible,
brought forth
for another.

*

It must be said:
this pastor mother friend
does not speak

too openly
about this moment,
about this pulse

between two
mind-boggling
mysteries,

because lactating
and lamenting—
nursing and weeping—

are not things
one mentions
in polite company.

Both will cause
the neighbors to talk
in the parking lot

quite a bit, afterward.
Sometimes it’s easier
to go on anticipating

God’s eventual arrival,
rather than hear
and see the quiet one

who is already answering
Yes; rather than notice
the one proclaiming

with her voice, her organs,
her tears, her tongue,
her joy, her pain,

her body, her need,
her strength,
herself—

Here I am.”


Kathryn is a Presbyterian pastor, serving a downtown church in Richmond, Virginia, and attempting to savor life with her husband and two young kids.


Image by: Kathryn Lester-Bacon
Used with permission
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