Blessed and highly favored.
That’s what the angel Gabriel called Mary when he showed up with the news. The news that God was about to turn her whole life upside down.
And I can’t help but wonder what she had been doing in the moments before he arrived. Had she been thinking about Joseph? Was she wondering what life with him was going to be like? Was she planning out how she would make their home a sanctuary? Maybe even pondering how many children they would one day have?
When she heard the news from Gabriel – when he told her that she, a virgin, was going to conceive a child – she had to know. She had to know in an instant that she stood to lose everything.
Not just any dreams she had of being a wife.
Not just any dreams she had of bearing Joseph’s children.
Not just any dreams she had of a home spilling over with love.
She would possibly lose her own life – stoned to death by those who would question the swelling abdomen of a young girl not yet married.
And her “yes”… her full surrender … it humbles me more than I can say.
Because who among us, when God asks us to stretch ourselves, when He asks us to lay down everything we have been dreaming of, when He asks us to exchange our plans for His, consider ourselves blessed or highly favored?
No. We don’t tend to deal well with detours from our carefully laid out plans. We don’t tend to respond with joy when we find out God may possibly be taking away the very thing we’ve been longing for, for years.
She chooses to believe. She chooses to trust. She makes this holy exchange. Her willingness a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of what her Son will one day say in His own exchange. A “not My will, but Yours” kind of moment.
And, oh, the power and the beauty of her exchange.
Her will. Her plans. Her dreams. She empties herself of every single one. All to make room for His. And in the space of her surrender, God is able to bring forth the One who will not only be our salvation, but Mary’s as well.
All because her heart’s response to Him is one of trust.
I trust You. Completely. Even though I can’t see how this will all work out. Even though I stand to lose everything. Even though my heart is full of ideas on how I want my life to turn out. I trust You.
Oh, to trust Him like this. To believe we are BLESSED when He asks us to relinquish our plans and dreams. To see that giving up actually leads to gaining. That turning our world upside down for Him really means finding ourselves better off than we ever were before. That what seems like the end to all that we hoped for is actually the beginning of more than we ever would have dared to dream.
I love Eugene Peterson’s version of Ephesians 3:17-20 in The Message:
“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
We can hold on to our own plans. We can give God our firm and fear-filled “no.” Or we can trust His love for us completely. We can experience the breadth of it and test its length and plumb its depths as we humbly say “yes” to Him.
What we’ll end up with is what Mary ended up with – a fullness beyond what we could have ever planned for ourselves.
Because God isn’t asking us for everything so He can leave us empty.
He’s asking us for everything so He can make us full.
Much love, dear friends.