Blessed is she.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

At this time of year, I find my thoughts (outside of Christmas-based to-do lists) drifting to Mary.

As in mother of Jesus Mary.

I mean, can you imagine how she must have felt after the angel visited her and dropped that bombshell? Already she had a massive change coming up in her life - she was about to marry Joseph, whom she probably didn't know particularly well. And now suddenly, her young body is about to nurture and give birth to the Saviour of the whole world.

Mary. How she must have felt as she made the journey to her relative Elizabeth's house, the angel Gabriel's words ringing in her ears: 'So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God'. 

Was she scared? Was she excited? Was she overwhelmed? The angel explained that the power of the Most High would 'overshadow' her. What did that feel like? Did she feel it at all? Did she start to feel her body shifting and changing to make room for another life?

I find the part where she meets Elizabeth and her baby, still in womb, leaps with joy at the sight of young Mary and the precious person she carried, really interesting. And we read it out loud as the advent candle burned, in between mouthfuls of dinner:

'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!'

Blessed. I've read a lot of blog posts and articles about the misuse of the word 'blessed' recently. Blessed is a funny word, but I think it's flexible. It can mean different things. In the Bible, you find that the word 'blessed' is often used in conjunction with something that you wouldn't expect - the Sermon on the Mount, for example. 'Blessed are those who mourn'.

That is quite different than 'God has blessed me with a new job/car/house', but I think the word can be used both ways.

Anyway, 'blessed are you among women', said Elizabeth. Let's consider this:

Blessed to deal with the potential scrutiny of being an unwed mother-to-be.

Blessed to deal with pregnancy and its complications, and going through the trauma of birth (yes, I said it: trauma. Not all women have births that are beautiful and zen-like and empowering, although I suppose Mary might have done. I had a fairly straightforward labour and still found it fairly traumatic. Anyway!) which would have been much more scary back then as the birth mortality rates were much higher.

Blessed to raise a child that will tip society on its head, leave the rulers of the day with their heads spinning, and totally infuriate those with higher authority than you. Blessed to see people turning against your child more and more every day, anger rising up against him. Blessed to see, on the flip side, people running after him, desperately needing him, wanting more of him.

Blessed to see your child perform miracles that you would never have imagined possible.

Blessed to hear your child speak, even at a tiny age, with such wisdom and depth that it leaves you breathless.

Blessed to see your son die a horrific and painful death.

Blessed, to bear the saviour of the world. To know that the Redeemer, for not just everyone you know, but for people in generations to come, once lived in your belly.

Blessed, yes. Joy and pain, two sides of the same coin.


I've been thinking back on this past year, trying to put my finger on one moment where I could say 'Aha! God was with me then.' Trying to think of a good story to round off the year, to blog about. And honestly? I can't. I could tell you some small ways in which God has shown His providence: usually this is in timing, in things aligning exactly the way they needed to. Small things like checking my email at the right time. Reading that particular verse on that day when I really needed it. That kind of stuff. But they're complicated and when you write it down it doesn't have the same impact that it had when it happened.

I am blessed in the '#blessed' sense of the word. We are all healthy. We are all well. We are happy. We have a roof over our head and food in our bellies. We have wonderful friends and family. We have a beautiful child who blossoms every day into a funny little person. We have, improbably, somehow, managed to afford Christmas this year.

But I want more. Is that greedy? I don't just want to be #blessed. I want more of Him. There is a large part of me that yearns to just sit still and hear God say something to me, clearly, like a bell ringing in the silence.

I started to worry and question myself. Where am I, exactly, with God? I'm not in a perfect place. I might blog about Him, but I still don't get all of it. I'm still working stuff out (with fear and trembling, mostly). I still sin (a lot). I make mistakes (again and again). I'm not as nice to people as I should be. I haven't done anything amazing this year - started a new ministry or done something really generous or bold.

When I start to hang my relationship with God on my own performance, it quickly crumbles apart.

Luckily, God had a plan for that. A plan that started a long time ago with a very young woman whose life was about to change forever.

Elizabeth, swollen with pregnancy, speaks on:

'As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!' (italics mine)

This really struck me. Later that night I thought about it. I thought about how God never seems to say things to me like 'Hey, Megan! I promise you XYZ'. And how sometimes I yearn for that. And how sometimes when I am feeling low I start to doubt whether He's been there at all.

But I remembered the one time I really felt, above everything else, God speak to me. It was at my baptism. Our pastor at the time read out the scripture they had prayerfully chosen for me, and it was something I would turn to again and again in times of need and of plenty:

'So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' ~ Isaiah 41:10

I remember those words almost cutting through me. Undoing me. I trembled for ages afterwards. I felt weird for days. Like something had changed.

The first part. 'So do not fear, for I am with you.'

'Blessed is she who believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.'

Blessed is she.

I have to remember, that's all. And it does come flooding back, like a hum of electricity in the background, low and steady under my feet. He said He is with me. My faith isn't based on feelings alone. It is based on a lot of things. Commitment. Relationship. Trust.

I'll be honest. There are a lot of things about my faith that don't make sense. I mean, the whole Christmas story doesn't make sense in my human mind: why choose a poor girl and a carpenter to be the parents of the saviour of the world? And there are deeper parts that leave my head spinning, and I realise again that I will never truly understand God, because I am human, and I am not meant to know it all.

And there are parts of my religion that I don't get. There are preachers that teach things that leave me hurt, embarrassed, even ashamed. People grab the word of God and they twist it until it suits their needs. And there are things that, I believe, have been drummed into Christians for generations and people don't question it, they don't look further into their own Bibles, they just flat-out believe whatever the fashionable teacher of the moment has said, even though they might be wrong. Even though they might be causing damage.

I'm sorry for that.

But I believe God extends grace to those who seek it.

And God sees potential in people that I don't. Including Mary and Joseph. Including those that have made colossal mistakes. Including me.

Thank God for grace, grace that overflows and overwhelms and changes every single thing.

Grace that drowns out everything else. Grace that I am 100% sure of.

Grace that has covered me this year, and will cover me again for the next.


I pray grace and peace for you this Christmas time.

I have one more post to come before Christmas (less deep, it's a kind of book-review-of-the-year type post, but if you like books you might enjoy it!) hope you're all having a good week, that your parcels are arriving on time, and that you don't get squished in the supermarkets ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment

CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan