A friend gave me a plaque that proclaims: "Grandmothers are antique little girls." I don't know what the originator had in mind, but my spin is that the longer we live, the more we return to the simplicity of girlhood. I am convinced that things are not as complicated as I made them when I was a young woman. I am in my sixties, so I tried out my life-gets-simpler theory on one of my spiritual mothers who is in her nineties. Her response was, “When I was a little girl I learned that God is love.” I waited for more, but she just smiled. She was done — she had said it all.
The goodness and beauty of her simple statement stood in stark contrast to my world at that moment. Her words stood in contrast to her world too. She was preparing to leave her home of fifty-seven years — a lifetime of memories — and move to an assisted-living facility. I knew she was suffering in her soul. How can we reconcile our beliefs with our experiences?
This, too, is not terribly complicated. Even as a little girl I knew deep inside that I was not right and things were not right. Now I have words to express this reality. We are fallen people, we live in a fallen world, and we will do so until Jesus takes us home or until He comes back and makes all things right. We wait with wounded but assured hearts because God is love. He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light so that we can live in the light even when it’s dark.
This is one of the things I am compelled to tell the next generation, and rightly so — not because I am wise, but because God commissions us to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps. 78:4).
This commission is even made gender-specific when Paul tells the young preacher to equip older women with sound doctrine so that they can “teach what is good, and so train the young women…” (Titus 2:3–5).
I love the story of the older woman who told young Mary about the glorious deeds of the Lord. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God: “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Then he confronted Mary with a shocking reality: “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:30–35).
What exhilarating and terrifying words. Imagine the emotions unleashed in Mary as her thoughts darted from light and glory to a sword in her soul. At that moment God sent Anna, an eighty-four year-old widow, who “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). She simply spoke of Him and thanked God for Him.
Anna did not trivialize the sword; she took the whole situation into account. She saw the sword in light of the Gospel, so she spoke to Mary of the Redeemer and the redemption He came to accomplish. The older woman spoke words of life that pointed the younger woman to God’s glorious deeds and His might and His wonders, all wrapped up in the bundle in Mary’s arms.
Redemption implies forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned, their relationship with God was broken, but God promised to pay the redemption price so the relationship could be restored. Forgiving our debt cost Him the dearest that He had, but He is love and that’s what love does.
One who has experienced this forgiveness is freed and compelled to forgive others, even the one who thrusts the sword in our soul. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is oneself. When our own sin plunges a sword in our soul we think we are unworthy of forgiveness — and we are. That’s the wonder of it.
Redemption is the grand story of Scripture. Everything points to the Redeemer. Mary’s story, my story, and your story are threads in the love story of redemption. God loves us so much that He planned for and accomplished our redemption in Christ. Redemption is not limited to the moment of justification. God is redeeming everything, even the swords in our souls. He is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus, and He is mighty enough to use every relationship and situation, and every sword, to accomplish His glorious objective. The Gospel really is that powerful. Anna had learned this, so she simply gave thanks. One who has lived long coram Deo, before the face of God, can speak of Jesus with credibility, assurance, and gratitude.
Anna spoke of Jesus to a wounded woman and Mary listened. She left the temple and fulfilled her mission of mothering the Messiah.
When my friend uttered those simple words — God is love — I listened. I left her home awash in the wonder of my redemption in Christ, and I gave thanks to God.
When there is a sword in the soul of a younger woman, she ought to find an older woman who is compelled to tell her of Jesus, and listen until her heart begins to be thankful for Him — how profoundly and wondrously simple.