At age 15, I got my ears pierced. While never strictly forbidden, my family silently frowned upon ear piercing. After all, if God had meant me to have holes in my ears, I would have been born with them! But the big hoops that hung on the ears of my older and sophisticated cousins in America fascinated me.
So while on a choir tour to the big city (for an MK living in Papua New Guinea, that meant the coastal town of Lae where expat shop owners offered modern wares and catered to western customs), I heard that some of the other girls in the choir were going to get their ears pierced. I don’t remember even really wrangling with this. I gave in to the axiom that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission. I went for it.
I felt a pinch and a prick and came out of the drug store sporting my new gold posts. Immediately the guilt set in. What was I going to tell my parents? How would they react? My conscience forced me to make a phone call—an expensive act in a time period when the phone was reserved for life and death situations. My father was gracious, heard my confession, and let me keep my adornments.
Around that same time, my youth group sang a worship song based on Exodus 21:2, 5-6:
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
The song went like this:
Pierce my ear, O Lord my God Take me to your door this day. For I will serve no other God. Lord I’m here to stay. For you have paid the price for me; With Your blood you ransomed me. Now I will serve you eternally. Lord I’m here to stay. Lyrics & Music by Steve Croft, Copyright © 1980 Dayspring Music, LLC
While I did not pierce my ears to mark my willing lifelong allegiance to God, Mary did declare herself to be a slave of the Lord (Luke 1:28 I am the Lord’s servant). In that, she accepted whatever God brought her way. Mary was favored and blessed, but that didn’t mean a rosy life. You see, there was this ominous prophecy from Simeon.
While Mary and Joseph were performing the obligatory baby dedication rites at the temple, a righteous man named Simeon recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah he had been waiting for all his life.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”Luke 2:34–35
A sword will pierce your own soul too. Typically we think of this prophecy referring to the way Mary’s son would die. But there were many other piercings along the way. Mary’s plans were upended. She was misunderstood. Her pregnancy was at risk. Her birthing circumstances were trying. She evacuated, became a refugee, and made her home in a foreign country. She felt the anxiety of a missing child. She was widowed at a young age. She had prodigal children. Her son offended others. She felt the pain of being rejected. And she watched her firstborn son die a gruesome death.
In declaring herself a slave of the Lord, Mary accepted whatever would come—the good and the bad, the laughter and the tears, the joy and the pain, life and death. There would be surface hurt and deep soul-searing pain. Some piercings would last a moment and some a lifetime. May we, like Mary, declare ourselves to be God’s servant even if it means a sword will pierce our soul too.
Are you a slave of the Lord? Read the words of the song above and decide your allegiance.
Lord, as Mary did, I declare that I am your servant. You have set me free from sin and death and made me a slave to righteousness and life. I will serve no other God. Lord, I’m here to stay. Amen.
Next in series: Upended
For the edited (and much better written) version of this, please purchase Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, available on Amazon.