Becoming Elizabeth: Vulnerability and the Visitation

How reflecting on the Visitation taught me that it’s okay to let myself be loved.

Fra Angelico – Visitation

“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

Luke 1:39-40

It had been another long day. I had been working from home for a few months, and my oldest was acting particularly three in response to our new routine. I had lost my patience and snapped at him more than I should have. I cried in frustration and lashed out at everything and everyone. I convinced myself that these outbursts belonged on my growing litany of examples of how unfit I was to be a wife, mother, or employee. I was drowning in a sea of self-proclaimed failure and pity without much hope of rescue. 

Two tea towels with quotes and pictures of fruit. A box with a necklace.

A friend happened to text me at that moment and got a very frank answer to the question, “How are you?” I poured my heart into my response, letting this friend see just how broken and awful I thought myself to be at that moment. She went silent, and I spiraled into theories about how she must feel that I am the worst mother ever. The next thing I knew, there was a knock on the door, and I found a sweet little goody bag on my porch – a gift from the friend who had listened to my ranting and dropped everything to let me know that I was loved. And it made all the difference. 

Motherhood can be a lonely vocation, surprising considering we are never alone! So many mothers are left to handle the struggles of raising kids, housekeeping, meal planning, and working to pay the bills, all with little help or support. These women are praised for their ability to “do it all.” They’re called “strong” by those who only catch glimpses of our lives that we want them to see. But the longer I spend mothering, the more I realize that this isn’t the way things should be. 

Over the last four years, I have learned that trying to juggle everything with as little help as possible does not make me a super-mom; it just makes me another victim of our society’s individualistic mindset. God Himself acknowledged that it was not good for man to be alone. Humans were made to belong to one another, to live in community with each other. Women, in particular, need support from our sisters in Christ, and we have the perfect example in the Second Joyful Mystery: the Visitation. 

For me, the story of the Visitation is a testament to the power of sisterhood. Mary and Elizabeth share a bond as cousins, but their sisterhood is what shines in this Mystery for me. The mutual love and respect for one another. The love they have for each other’s children. There is no envy over whose baby is more special, or unwanted advice, just two women caring for each other during a time of profound change and vulnerability. And at the center of it all is Jesus Christ. 

Our Blessed Mother brought the gift of Christ to Elizabeth, and even His unborn cousin leaped for joy over being in the presence of his tiny Savior. My friend’s random act of kindness was more than just a gift to cheer me up. In listening without judgment and making it her mission to love me when I needed it most, she had taken on the role of Mary, bringing Jesus to my doorstep when I so desperately Him. 

We are called to be Our Lord’s hands and feet on earth, just as His Mother was when she carried Him in her womb. When we hear of a new mother in need of a meal or a grieving widow at our parish in need of comfort, we need only to recall the Visitation to remember that we are also invited to rise and make haste to those who need us – who need Christ – most. 

On the other hand, it can be easy to simply add “Go be like Mary and make sure everyone knows they’re loved!” to our to-do lists. It’s often easier to want to see ourselves as the Doer, the one who rushes in to help, rather than the one in need of support. 

That day, my experience with my friend showed me the value of letting myself be Elizabeth. Allowing myself to be vulnerable gave me an opportunity to see that I was not alone. Elizabeth’s example gave me a chance to rejoice in the kindness of my sister in Christ. It also helped me to stop and appreciate the blessings that were so easy to ignore in my suffering. The Holy Spirit came and rested in my heart where anger and sadness had dwelt for too long. All because of the sacred gift of sisterhood.

How are you being called to live the message of the Visitation today, sister? Are you able to be like Mary and hasten to help someone in need of Christ’s love? Or do you need to permit yourself to be Elizabeth and allow someone to love you in your brokenness? Either way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the way to live out your call to sisterhood.  

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