She was probably about the age of the typical middle school girl. Maybe twelve or thirteen. Old enough for her spirit to be waking up to those first whispers of maternal instinct and the powerful love that comes with it, and to know the joy of lavishing that kind of love on a new little brother.
Old enough to have seen the dangers that lurk around this river. Old enough to know what those dangers can do to a baby boy like this one.
In obedience, she takes the baby she and her mother have hidden for three months and places him in a little basket. She walks to the water, with prayers on her tongue and tentative glances toward the reeds. Then she lowers the basket into the water.
The little baby doesn’t stand a chance unless God takes charge of the basket, and Miriam knows it.
With a heart that trusts when there is absolutely no reason to trust, Miriam gives the basket a push. It moves away from the young lady’s hands, into the deeper waters far from shore.
Miriam remembers how it felt to hold the sweet infant close and soothe him when he cried. How she whispered in his ears about the danger that would come if somebody heard him. How she had begged him to sleep, just keep sleeping. How she sang her life-saving lullaby for days and weeks and months, until he was too old for them to hide another day and keep quiet another night.
In this moment as she kneels beside the Nile River, Miriam remembers the many times she has seen this river claim lives, as rivers always do. And she prays that, this day, the river will not claim life, but bring life.
Even though she has absolutely no reason to trust, she trusts.
She moves along the shore and strains to keep her eyes fixed on the basket. Will he sleep? Will the lapping water work to their advantage? Or will the infant wake up and flail his tiny arms? Will his cry awaken a predator?
How can this go well? How can this end in any way but absolute tragedy?
The basket seems to follow a random course. But Miriam knows that God’s hand can sometimes seem just as random as the Nile’s current. And she watches and she prays.
So young, to have been entrusted to such a job. So young, to have endured such a moment. What should she do if the basket goes too far? No, not if, but when the basket goes too far? What will she do when the current takes him so quickly that she cannot see him any longer? Would it be better not to know or to know the worst because it happens right there in front of her eyes?
And then she hears voices and for just a second, her heart seems to stop beating altogether. Happy laughter. Carefree banter. Women bathing in the sacred waters. One of them sees the basket, and commands another to draw it from the water.
What is this? There’s a baby in here! Look, it is a Hebrew baby. Oh, isn’t he precious? Let’s keep him!
But, how will you feed him? He is so young. Certainly, he isn’t yet weaned.
We will find a wet nurse for him! Oh, won’t it be fun!
As the wind carries the conversation across the water to the ears of the older sister, Miriam realizes that something wonderful is happening. This is God’s work. Nothing is random. Nothing is beyond God’s watchful eye. Not even her baby brother.
She steps forward and very humbly lifts her voice, saying, I know a wet nurse. I’ll go get her if you wish.
The daughter of Pharaoh lifts her eyes from the baby who now rests in her arms. Oh, yes, please do that.
And Miriam races home to tell her mother the story. How God has saved their little boy, through water working in tandem with the Spirit of the Living God.
Many years would pass, and this little brother would save them by standing before Pharaoh and demanding that he let the Hebrew people go. God would work many miracles, part the waters, lead them through the desert by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day, give them food from heaven, spare them from poisonous snakes, and teach them His law in a deeper way than ever before.
Miriam would see God do mightier things than rescue a baby from the water. That was only the beginning of God’s saving power. A moment when water and the Spirit kiss and a life is spared.
This young lady witnessed all of it. She held a baby boy in her arms and entrusted Him to God. And the Hebrew people find salvation because of her courageous act of faith.
And just as she did when she held the baby in her arms, she sings a song as the Israelites escape through the parted sea.
Our Lady probably wasn’t much older when she held a baby boy in her arms. This baby would be the savior of the world, prefigured by Moses, who saved the Hebrews from slavery. This baby would give to the people the saving water of baptism, prefigured by Moses, who was saved from the Nile and led the Hebrew people to safety through the parted sea as they fled Egypt. This woman would sing a song that would proclaim the good news, Our God saves!
It all began with the young lady named Miriam, who quietly waited among the reeds, interceding and pleading for God to spare the child. In many ways, we can see Our Lady in this young lady. But it doesn’t end there.
We also see Mary in Miriam’s mother. In this analogy, we are like Miriam, holding our breath for God to demonstrate His provision and protection, pleading for God to spare those we love, and springing into action when the moment of salvation is at hand, saying, “I know just the woman for you. Shall I go and call her to come?”
And Mary comes running, because she loves her son. She hears our petitions, because she loves her son. She risks everything, for love of the Son. She will go anywhere to care for the Body of Christ, just as Moses’ mother humbly took the title of a wet nurse so that she could bring life and nourishment to her son.