Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
Joseph & Mary Were a Team
We were juniors in college, newly engaged, and discerning conversion to Catholicism from our evangelical Protestant backgrounds. It didn’t take long for us to stumble upon one of the most important questions every convert has to wrestle with: to accept or not to accept the Church’s stance on contraception.
I had been attracted to the Catholic faith after studying the Protestant Reformation as a history major, so I had approached my conversion from a very historical and analytical angle. The Church’s appeal to structure, hierarchy, and authority were enough to lead me to accept the Church’s stance on contraception. My fiancé, Reece, was not so easily convinced.
He wrestled, and at the age of 20, with his whole life ahead of him, he gave his fiat, as Mary does at the Annunciation. He decided, along with me, that we would give control of our fertility and future family over to God. I didn’t realize until over half a decade later that, because motherhood is so closely tied to fatherhood, my fiat was forever intimately tied to his.
Six years later, I slammed the door to the bedroom and laid down on the bed. I realized how tightly my teeth were clenched, and intentionally relaxed my jaw, taking a deep breath. The past few weeks had been tense, and I felt I had reached my limit. I was angry at my husband and ashamed at how we had reacted in front of our two sons, the oldest of whom is only three. A few choice words had been said, a few unflattering names had been called, and in the end, I stormed off to the bedroom, leaving him in the living room to tend to the kids. As sometimes happens when one feels rage, I couldn’t even recall the whole conversation, but I laid there and tried anyway.
He had come home late from work again, but his tardiness wasn’t really what set me off, I realized. It was that he hadn’t bothered to tell me he was going to be late. I had prepared supper, and it had grown cold. I had made it through a normal day of diaper explosions, begging for snacks, and general toddler craziness, and I just wanted a nice family dinner and some alone time with him once the kids went to bed.
A year ago, my husband changed jobs. He loves his new career and has done exceptionally well at it. I had watched him struggle for several years to find contentment in his work. At first, I was so pleased to see him come alive again and so proud of what he accomplished in a short amount of time.
Soon, though, I began to resent the extra time I spent home alone with kids, the family suppers where he was absent, and work calls on the weekends. It also seemed like our alone time consisted of me listening to him talk about his work. What about my day with the kids? What about my quality time with him? What about my needs? Money isn’t everything, you know.
I cannot tolerate going to bed angry, so after a little while, I quietly walked out to the living room to find him sitting on the couch with the kids watching a movie. I sat down with him and, and after the kids were asleep, I apologized, and so did he. As we usually do, we worked it out before falling asleep with our backs comfortably pressed against each other.
That evening wasn’t the first time this little scenario had played out between us. I knew something was amiss in my heart, but I couldn’t discern exactly what it was. I didn’t expect the answer to come several weeks later, while I was praying the rosary.
My favorite mystery to contemplate while praying the rosary is the Annunciation, simply because of its practicality. Imagining, with Mary, where I need to say “yes” to God in my life is almost always applicable to my day. I pray with a scriptural rosary companion book. It has broadened the scope of each mystery for me and given me so much more to contemplate, making my prayer time much richer.
As I prayed through the Annunciation, fingers moving slowly forward, I reached the third Hail Mary and read Luke 1:26-27: “In the sixth month the angel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.”
Engaged to a man named Joseph. I paused, feeling that inner prompting, and repeated the words to myself. My eyes filled with tears as I realized that for Jesus’ story to unfold the way it did, more “yeses” were required than just Mary’s. Joseph quietly gave his “yes” in the background, ensuring Jesus grew up with a loving father and a loving mother. Mary may have nursed him at her breast, so he could grow physically, but Joseph taught him how to swing a hammer and grow ever stronger. He provided a living for his family and a trade for his son. Joseph and Mary were a team. If anyone had a reason to feel betrayed or upset, it was Joseph, but he quietly served, taught, loved, and provided for his family.
I thought of Reece and how he provides for our family. How, every day, he walks out the door, sacrificing time with us to earn money for the food I cook and the diapers I change during the day. I thought of the sweet babies Reece had given me and how, the moment I yelled at him in front of them, I had emphatically told God “no,” not yes.
The Annunciation is the account of Mary’s “yes,” in which the word was made flesh, but it is also an account of a man struggling and ultimately giving another world-altering “yes,” quietly and in the background.
From our very first yes, when we decided to welcome children on God’s timetable, to Reece’s daily yes as he provides for our family, my daily yes to God through my children is made possible by the quiet yeses of my husband. His yes, quietly and humbly given like St. Joseph’s, enables me to mother the way I do and continue to seek my yes in the way I am called to. Just like the mystery promises, reflecting on the Annunciation has humbled me and led me to think not just how important my own yes is but also of the equally important yeses of the people closest to me.
About Bond: Bond Warner Strong lives in the mountains of southwest Virginia with her husband, Reece, and two sons, Willis and Harmon. She loves the mountains, but also has a chronic case of wanderlust. She is an aspiring writer and avid reader inspired by Jo March, and a homemaker influenced by Molly Weasley. She is passionate about local food and nature, and she cares deeply about peace and justice thanks to Dorothy Day. Most of all, she is a lover of Christ daily led by her mother, Our Lady. She loves nothing more than good friends gathered around her table sharing tacos, margaritas, and lively conversation. For more from Bond visit bondwarnerstrong.com