I always like to think about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I consider her one of my heroes. She is actually a fitness hero as well as a spiritual inspiration. Think of what she accomplished physically during her first pregnancy alone, and then throughout her life! At the beginning of her pregnancy, she walked from her hometown of Nazareth to Jerusalem to be with her cousin Elisabeth. That’s around 65 miles (105km), and mostly uphill. A double marathon, with morning sickness. Then, Mary was compelled to travel back to Nazareth another 65 miles (105km) once Elisabeth’s delivery date approached. According to Josephus, a biblical historian, it was taboo in those days for an unmarried woman to be in the house at the birth of a baby. So, she had no choice. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of courage for Mary to go back, as she faced the real threat of being stoned to death once her village learned she was an unwed betrothed teen. Blessedly, love (and angels) triumphed, and Joseph was waiting to take her as his wife. Soon afterwards, Mary was once again leaving her village and heading to Bethlehem for Herod’s tax. She was in her last trimester by then!
“The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 113 kilometres (70 miles) as the crow flies, but the winding mountain trails that Joseph and Mary had to travel is about 145 kilometers (90 miles), and the climb is about 400 meters (1,312 feet). At walking pace it would take them more than a week to cover that distance and height.” – Wiki
Over a week of walking on dusty roads, heavy with child, experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions, back-aches, hot-flashes, and any other myriad of last-trimester discomforts. There were no restroom facilities. She was sleeping on the hard cold ground at night, and during the day she possibly sat atop a sweaty donkey (scripturally, there’s no mention) but it is likely she may have been hoofing the trek herself. After a week or more of this treacherous and arduous travel, there weren’t even any showers waiting for the poor woman! No hotel. No mattress. No pillows. No pedicures. No hospital birthing room with hot tub… Zip. In fact, no one made room, or seemed to care. Instead, Mary the mother of the Son of God ended up with a smelly cave filled with animals, a pile of scratchy hay for her delivery cot, and a feed bin for her baby’s cradle!
And what about all those midnight cravings during her long trek? She was burning massive calories each day, and was ‘eating for two’? Did Joseph run out for some pickles, or chips? Maybe a little Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey? Nope. If she was lucky, they may have found some nectarines, figs or dates along the way. However, I imagine those could have stirred up Mary’s heartburn pretty nasty, so she probably toughed it out and stuck with the pita bread and water..or, (if she had an iron-clad stomach), some goat cheese.
After all of this ordeal, and the birth, a bunch of strangers crowded into her little makeshift delivery room. All we really know of her personal observations comes from Luke: “And Mary pondered these things in her heart”. She certainly had a lot to ponder!
Afterwards, did Mary get to settle down in a nice little cottage in the suburbs for the rest of her life and tell her story to the knitting club? Nope. God warned Joseph in a dream that the baby was in great danger, and Mary had to do some emergency packing for International traveling. It is estimated that the child Jesus would have been anywhere from 12 mo. – 2 years old. In other words, an active toddler. This trip involved traveling down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, through Gaza across the unforgiving Sinai Desert into Egypt, past the Pyramids and along the Nile – about 350 miles (563 km). I’ve personally followed the Holy Family’s trail, (in an air conditioned tour bus), and walked trails in the Sinai and Egypt areas. (including a late night hike up Mt. Sinai to watch the sunrise…but I digress). I found these weeks of my Middle Eastern journey a bit uncomfortable by my modern standards, and very physically taxing. When I imagine walking the entire trek as Joseph and Mary did, exposed to the elements day after day, carrying a toddler and trying to protect him, searching to find enough water and food along the way, it is difficult for me to comprehend. This would be classified under “extreme tourism” today.
“Along the sand-swept trails there would have been no toilet facilities, no privacy, no water or other travel needs. Life was tuff in those days for the traveler! In the summer time the heat could reach up to 120 F. and in the winter there is often snow along that route. The way included mountains, valleys, rivers, desert and wilderness. There were bandits and killers hiding along the wayside. For those who could afford it a donkey was brought along to help carry supplies.” – Arthur Blessitt
According to Arthur Blessitt’s fascinating estimations:
Total: 12,187 Miles (19,612 km) Mary the Mother of Jesus Walked by the time she was about 50 years of age! This means that Mary the Mother of Jesus Walked almost ‘HALF’ the distance around the world!
Forget those reality show “islanders”. Mother Mary was the ultimate survivor! What a woman! This post has focused upon her physical sacrifice and endurance. Another post could duly be dedicated to her emotional endurance and spiritual faith. I truly love and honor Mary. Some day (in the next life) I look forward to hearing her life story, told from her perspective.