In the past few days I have thought often about the story of Mary as she was met by the angel and told she would give birth to a son. I have closed my eyes, imagined Mary and the angel and wondered what the scene was like as it unfolded. I play out the events of that moment as though I were vision casting a scene for a movie. The scene unfolds like this:
Mary, played by an innocent, and yet curiously strong woman, is hanging laundry. She is feeling a sense of gratitude for the life she’s been given and is day dreaming about her upcoming wedding to Joseph. As she hangs a dress on the line, suddenly she is overwhelmed by a light that is incredibly white. The light surrounds her and she sees the outline of a figure in the light. She trembles. What is this? What is happening? The figure speaks her name, “Mary” The mention of her name causes chills to run down her spine and she steps back. The figure didn’t stop at her name, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary hits her knees and shields her face.
The figure speaks, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus He will be great and will be called the Son of the MOst High. The God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
These words were just as confusing as frightening. Mary stands up and steps towards the figure in the light. “How can this be? For I am a virgin?”
The figure explains all that is to happen and Mary is filled with peace, belief, and strength. She knows her Lord. She believes He is God and He is good. There is no waiting or debating, there is only a response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” With that the figure leaves and the light that surrounded her washes over her enveloping her with peace, grace, fortitude and awe.
What is this great mystery? I imagine Mary whispers to her self as she jumps in obedience.
The mystery of obedience does not make sense to the world. The mystery of the Kingdom story is beautiful and powerful, but it goes against human logic an understanding.
I know the reality of beautifully mysterious invitations and it is not mine to question the invitation or the task, but to simply respond with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word be fulfilled.”
I must be honest, the words I am the Lord’s servant do not come without fear. Obedience is not a task for the weak. Obedience involves, leaning into the character of God and leaping in faith, knowing not with my eyes, but with my belief that I will be caught.
This summer I went to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. As my friend and I stood at the edge of the over 400ft cliff, I was filled with fear and awe. Over and over and over in my mind I would imagine me running and jumping off of the cliff. I’d shutter with fear. Finally I asked Jesus, why do I keep playing this over and over in my mind. Why will this not go away? As I asked, I felt a nudge in my spirit to pay attention to what happens after I jump. I played the scene through. I once again imagined me running and jumping off the cliff. Immediately, after the jump was made a hand caught me and carried me to the shore below. I cried at the beauty of the picture. I was not jumping into death, I was jumping in obedience and God would meet me and carry me where he wanted me to go.
When God invites us, it often feels like jumping off a cliff or perchance even like a virgin being told she would give birth to a child. Invitations to obedience are not for the faint of heart. But, obedience… I must tell you, is the place where fairytales become reality. It is the place where the Kingdom comes. It is the place where the divine is seen and the glory of God is given to sight.
As I write, I am invited into this type of obedience. The initial invitation was given and I was overrun by fear. The voice of the Lord met me, “Cari, do not be afraid. I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Jacob. I am for your good. I do not invite you so that you will be overcome, but so that you will overcome. I do not hand you into the hands of your enemies, I hand your enemies into your hands. I do not invite you to taste death only to live in its sting, no I invite you to die so that you may live. I do not invite you to jump so that you are destroyed, I invite you to jump so that I can move you. Trust not in your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge me and I will make your path straight. Be still, and know that I am God.”
As I am reminded of the character of the One inviting me to jump, I am thankful. My fear turns into expectation and my hope remains not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds all things.
Today, where ever you are. In the face of whatever invitation is before you…. cling not to the outcome, but the one who holds it. Do not be afraid, for God, who is good, will lead you and you will not be destroyed.