What Mary Sees
Kal and I are reading The Little Town on the Prairie, the seventh book in the Little House series, and in the second chapter there’s a conversation between Laura and Mary about how Laura thinks Mary is always good. Since she was a child, Mary has been obedient, cheerful, eager to help her Ma with chores, while Laura has always felt tempted to disobey or do wrong. Now Mary is blind and limited in what she can do, but still good. Laura, however, says that now Mary seems different. While Mary used to be a goody-goody, insufferably righteous and trying to curry her parents’ favor, Laura says now she is good without even trying. Mary, “using the Bible words,” replies, “We are all desperately wicked and inclined to evil as the sparks fly upwards. But that doesn’t matter.” Laura asks what that means. Mary replies with great insight and wisdom: “I mean I don’t believe we ought to think so much about ourselves, about whether we are good or bad.”
I think Mary is right. I am not able to do that yet. I can get obsessed about being good or bad. But Mary is not dwelling on it either way. What does it benefit to dwell on it? It probably does not make us better. It does make us focused on ourselves and overly introspective. And the point is that we are not supposed to be so focused on ourselves anyway, right? We are focused on God, ideally. And Mary has reached that point.
Laura is shocked by Mary’s response and demands an explanation. Mary tries to explain: “I don’t know how to say what I mean very well. But – it isn’t so much thinking, as – as knowing. Just being sure of the goodness of God.”
Somehow the goodness of God is making Mary good. And her acceptance of that is coming from her acceptance of her disability, I think. This whole conversation takes place in the context of her dependence upon Laura and her family, and how God is providing for all her needs. Because she has seen God take care of her, she trusts in His goodness and is able to rest in that. I think this verse from II Corinthians 3 is what Mary is talking about: 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Mary is not so much trying to be transformed into the Lord’s image as she is just contemplating God’s glory. Thinking about ourselves, constantly measuring ourselves and assessing our goodness or badness, is a dead end. We are not good. That’s the bottom line Mary accepted. And that freed her to focus on God’s goodness instead.