Archive for December, 2009

Elizabeth’s Story

December 6, 2009

I know my husband is going to talk to me again. It will still be a couple months left before he’ll say anything, though. What happened was that one day when he was at work, serving in the temple the same as he has for decades, something, well, something unusual happened. I think that shocked him as much as anything else. We might not have been completely satisfied with our lives, but we were happy, and we were used to our routine. You could even say we loved our routine. When you get to be as old as we are, you learn to appreciate things staying the same more than you wish for them to change.

I’m still not quite sure about everything that happened in the temple that day. My husband, Zechariah is his name, has tried to explain it as best he can, but since he can’t talk, I’m sure there are some things he just can’t communicate to me. He’s tried writing it all down, of course, but you lose some things when you try to write them out. I know I’d be able to understand it better if I could hear it in his voice, but even then, I doubt he could express all of it. There’s only so much you can say with words.

As far as I understand it, here’s what happened: My husband was chosen to go into the temple and burn incense. He’s done it a thousand times, so when he didn’t come back out right when he was supposed to, his coworkers–the other priests, I mean–knew something unusual was going on. They wouldn’t admit it to us even if we asked, but I know they were at least a little jealous when they saw his face after he came out of the temple. They don’t talk about it much, but every one of the priests hopes that God’s going to show up when they go inside. It’s been so long since he has, though, that some of them don’t think he ever will. After Zechariah came out, they kept asking him what had taken so long, but he couldn’t tell them, of course.

He didn’t mean it to be funny, but when my husband came home and tried to explain to me what the angel had told him, I couldn’t help but laugh. Once I finally figured out what he meant–that we were supposed to have a son–I just stared at him like he’d lost his entire brain, instead of just the part that lets him talk. I mean, think about it. Before we could have a son, there were certain…things that we’d have to do first, the kinds of things people our age don’t really like talking about, to be honest. But, well, he was just so completely convinced that was what we had to do, and I went ahead and went along with it.

“But you know he’ll talk to you again.” That’s what Mary said to me when I told her the story. It’s so hard to even imagine how difficult this is for her, to know that the sensible, honorable thing for her fiancee, Joseph, to do would be to divorce her and never see her again. The honorable thing. She’s barely more than a girl, and all her dreams of having a respectable family and a normal life might be ruined, and she didn’t do anything to deserve it.

I said that it’s hard for me to imagine how hard this is for her, but it’s not just because I’m an old married woman. The afternoon she came to visit me, all I could feel was joy. I wish we didn’t use that word so much. It would make it easier for me to explain. Do you know how, sometimes when you’re trying to fall asleep, you feel like you’re falling? That’s how I felt then, except I felt like I was flying upward. The miracle baby growing inside me was dancing so hard, I had to jump up and dance along with him just to keep from bursting. But even that wasn’t enough, and I opened my mouth to release some of the bottled-up energy.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb! And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Caught up in the Spirit with me, Mary sang

“My soul exalts the Lord,

and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior,

because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant.

For from now on all generations will call me blessed,

because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;

from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.

He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.

He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;

he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,

as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

She stayed with us a long time after that. She told me she wanted to feel that anticipation and excitement one more time before she left. I wanted to feel it again too, but I know there was another reason besides that. She was scared of what would happen when she went back home. Joseph is a busy man and wouldn’t have the time to come out here to see us, so as long as she stayed, she could imagine that the answer she wanted–that he would keep her–would be the answer she received.

We never felt the Spirit move that same way again the whole time she stayed with us. Sometimes it was enough to make her wonder if any of it was real, if she hadn’t just imagined the angel, if my outburst wasn’t just a pregnancy mood swing. All she had to look back on were her memories, but with me it was a little different. I had my silent husband to remind me. I know nothing less than an act of God could keep him quiet this whole time. It’s funny, when you think about it: His silence is my surest evidence that God has started speaking again.

Mary left for home this morning. She was still worried about what Joseph might have decided to do, but she knew she couldn’t hide here forever. Last night, after she decided she was going to leave in the morning, we sat down together and wrote out that song she sang her first night here. It’s been almost three months, but neither of us had forgotten even a letter of it. I wanted to have a copy of it myself, but there was another reason, too. I wanted to remind her that the same God who sent angels to her and to Zechariah; who made it possible for both of us to have a baby–she in her virgin youth, me in my barren old age; who gave Isaac to Abraham and Sarah centuries ago; who led Israel out of Egypt; that he is the God of Joseph, too, and that he can work another miracle with him, so that all generations really will call her blessed.

God has spoken throughout our history, and after such a long silence, I know he has started speaking again. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.