The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” Luke 1:28-30 NIV
Did you notice that when the angel told Mary she was highly favored by God and that God was with her, she was troubled? I’m trying to imagine what Mary felt when Gabriel revealed the plan God had to involve her in His most loving, amazing, saving act for all of humankind. Shock? Disbelief? Bewilderment? Fear? Gabriel told her not to be afraid but being human, and knowing Mary was human, I know that fear comes anyway in moments like that, in times when we’re faced with something so utterly mind-blowing we can’t comprehend it. However she felt, she yielded to God and said to the angel, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let it be as you’ve said.” Pretty mature for a young teenager!
When I read on in Luke I see that soon Mary embraces her role in God’s story with joy and thankfulness. I don’t know how much she knew ahead of time about what Jesus would endure when he grew up. I imagine, like any young first-time mother, that she had moments of fear awaiting her first baby’s birth but many more moments of excitement and anticipation. She would have her own child, a son to love and hold. I remember so well each time I was pregnant feeling I couldn’t wait until my baby came. I was just as hopeful and happy the 2nd and 3rd times I was expecting, too. I wasn’t thinking of or anticipating the hard things, but the beautiful. I wasn’t dwelling on the sleepless nights, the crying, the poopy diapers, the expenses, or the challenges of discipline. I was looking forward to the snuggles, the sweetness, the relationship, the opportunity to love and nurture a new member of our family.
When I look ahead to holiday family get-togethers I don’t waste time thinking about how much work it will be keeping the kitchen clean, how I might burn my fingers on the oven, how time-consuming it will be to clean house before and after. I dwell on and can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it will be to be together, to have fun with them, hug them, love them, and make memories.
God showed me again yesterday that in regard to my family’s future, I’m letting fear and the negative weigh me down. I’m focusing on the hard things of ministry instead of looking forward to the beautiful. Instead of thinking “There will probably be times of misunderstanding, times of petty complaints, times of weariness and uncertainty” and more, I should dwell on the memories of God at work in our past and how He might work through us in the future. I should remember the night John came running in after a Christmas Eve communion service in our first church to tell me with a radiant face that he had led a man to Christ right there in the quiet candlelit sanctuary. I remember many, many times when we had people in our home to eat, laugh, talk, pray, share, hug, play games, and try to share that love with newcomers. I remember teaching little kids about Jesus and leading them in singing songs at the top of their lungs. I remember fondly leading teenagers in Bible study and silly games and then seeing them years later step into ministry themselves. I remember God speaking through John as people’s hearts received something they desperately needed to hear from their heavenly Father. I remember standing with hurting friends and putting arms around shoulders that were mourning. I remember laying hands on those who were sick or needing some special answer from God and feeling the warmth of other hands on my shoulder – all of us gathered around as God’s family to pray for one. I remember singing and making music in worship, watching young people get involved and then eventually lead. I remember making friends with my black brothers and sisters in St. Louis and being enriched by the years we had serving and praising Jesus together. I remember several of them lingering at our house a number of times to talk with John and dig through the Scriptures. I remember John counseling two of them through hard patches in their marriage and urging them remain faithful. They are still together today!
I feel like I can relate to what Luke wrote about Mary – how she was greeted by God’s messenger as one who was highly favored and that troubled her. When you’ve walked with God for a while you realize that obeying Him will cost and sometimes cost dearly. It’s as if when I think about God’s favor and calling on our lives I say to myself, “Uh oh. What is this going to mean?”
The path we walk following Jesus will be hard and facing that reality up front is wise, I think. However, it will also be wonderful, amazing, breathtaking, warm, peace-filled…a way filled with brothers and sisters as fun, passionate, loving and encouraging fellow travelers. Because it’s God at work in us and through us, people will find their way back to Him! Lives will be changed – not because of us but because we choose to play the part He’s given us in HIS story.
God, help me look forward to the good that’s ahead and not be held back by the things that make me afraid. I know You well enough to know that when we’re favored by you, the future will be difficult and challenging sometimes, but it will also be good. Give me faith and obedience like Mary to say, “I’m your servant. Let it be as You’ve said.”