…because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. ~ Matthew 1:20b
It was the second Sunday of Advent and these words leapt from the passage and lodged in my spirit.
I could not shake them.
As my children squirmed in their church seats and rifled through my bag for gum and pens, God whispered his attribute to my walled-off heart:
I am a God who conceives unthinkable things.
Within the virgin womb of an ordinary Jewish girl, the most divine alchemy swirled with light and life infused by the Holy Spirit.
It’s December 5th. I am worn out and wrung out. God whispers truth about himself and about me:
Marian, I am a God who conceives things. This is not simply who I was at a single point in history. It is who I am and will always be. It is what I do within those who I have called for divine purposes. But you must yield to it.
I thought more closely about the order of things in Mary’s life, scribbling notes and arrows on my worship folder.
The Holy Spirit — > conception — > surrender — > carrying that which no one can see — > labor / pain — > new life — > death — > redemption
I whisper back:
God, what have you conceived in me that I have not yet surrendered to? In what ways must I yield?
And I know what it is. I know what I carry that no one can see.
I long to carry something different and God says no.
This is what I have conceived in you. Will you carry it? Will you labor under this burden and choose to receive it as a blessing? Will you trust that there is life and death and redemption on the other side?
As I write this post, my lip quivers. I do not want to say yes.
In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning says this about people, pain, and purpose:
Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded…On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.
My view of humanity is limited; I can’t possibly match up each person that God has significantly used with a corresponding deep woundedness. But I know there is truth to what Manning says.
I know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I know that pain humbles us and that wounds make us real.
I’m not looking to be a person of great significance in the kingdom of God. The older I get, the more uncomfortable I am with attention. But I long to be a meaningful part of God’s work here on earth. I don’t want my story, my labor, or my scars to be wasted.
Mary didn’t have to say yes.
We’re not robots. God entrusts us with choices even within the mystery of sovereign will. He invited her to be part of his work and she said yes.
And aren’t we glad that she, like Jesus, yielded to her Father’s will instead of surrendering to her own rightful agenda?
Her yes gave birth to the light and life of the world. This is why we sing songs of rejoicing at Christmas.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
We don’t rejoice because all is right with the world —
We don’t rejoice because life has gone as we’d hoped —
We don’t rejoice because we have a robust college fund for our kids —
We don’t rejoice because we have a marriage that’s easy —
We don’t rejoice because we have jobs that are well-paying and secure —
We rejoice because we are a weary and wounded people but we are not abandoned in this state.
Perhaps you’re carrying a hard and heavy thing you never asked to conceive, much less labor under.
But what if we see our heavy thing as a privilege instead of a weight?
What if we choose trusting instead of fighting?
What if we choose the mindset of freedom instead of bondage — freedom to die to our expectations and even our desires because we trust in a greater purpose?
Mary died to reputation, to convention, to logic, to self, to a comfortable path. She was forced to flee while pregnant and birthed her baby in a crude and humble dwelling. Her newborn child slept in a feeding trough for animals. Who would choose that?
But with a posture of humility and trust, she yielded to a divine purpose she couldn’t actually see. As she received the unthinkable realities of her own life, she simultaneously received the glorious hope that waited on the other side.
Death always precedes redemption.
Right now I’m wrestling with a sort of death, clenching tightly to fear, to desire, to doubt, and to my own logical solutions instead of placing my big self aside and submitting to the will of the Father.
If you’re in the same place, may the story of Christ comfort us and lead us as we wait for a miracle. May we receive our own lives with trust and hope this Christmas.
That which is conceived in you, though it feels unwelcome, may actually be destined for fullness of life.
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