Character Close Up: Mary, the mother of Jesus

Happy New Year! It’s a new year and I haven’t blogged in far too long, so I have a lot of writing to catch up on. Although I haven’t done the customary “New Year’s post” yet, I want to jump right into a series of posts I’ve been thinking of writing on different people seen in Scripture who embody character traits I want to develop in my own life this year. I think it’s a good way to set a path for spiritual growth this year and I hope that the Lord will cultivate the strength of character in me that I see in these men and women of the Bible.

This holiday season I found myself thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, a lot. Maybe it’s because Dad always reads Luke 2 before we open our gifts on Christmas morning. Or maybe it’s because every time I encounter her in Scripture, I see a young woman with inexplicable faith in the face of impossibility and unfailing trust in the word of the Lord. She’s obviously favored by the Lord and entrusted with a precious gift – the Savior of all mankind – to carry, give birth to, and raise in the ways of the Lord. And she doesn’t balk. She doesn’t run from change. She isn’t embittered by the responsibility given her or the sacrifice required. She does question (thankfully, because if I had to stop questioning everything, I’d probably fail miserably) – but at the word of the angel, she’s willing to lay down her plans, dreams, reputation, and even her relationship with Joseph to be obedient. She was always willing to follow (she understands spiritual leadership) – she left her home and followed Joseph to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-5), then Egypt (Matthew 2:13), and then to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23).

Just thinking about that gives me chills. I honestly can’t imagine being called to do such a thing. At the same time, we’re each called to follow the Holy Spirit, and while we won’t be asked to raise the King, it’s likely that we’ll each, at some point in our lives, be asked to the do impossible (at least in the natural realm). And when asked, I want to respond as Mary did. As believers we’re all called to do exactly as she did – Jesus himself said so in Matthew 10:37-39 –

“37 If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (emphasis mine).

Two of my favorite verses about Mary are found in Luke.

Luke 1:38 “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Luke 2:19 “but Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Thankfully, Mary wasn’t perfect. She questioned Gabriel (Luke 1:34), was upset with Jesus when he wandered off as a child (Luke 2:48), demanded the attention of Jesus while he was busy ministering (Luke 8:19), asked Jesus to perform a miracle just because a wedding ran out of wine (John 2:3), and probably was a typical woman in many ways. Despite this, her life is an incredible example of one lived in obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Three things I think I can learn from Mary are 1.) to be available to be used by God (and to hold everything in life – even my life itself – with open hands by remaining willing to give up everything at any time), 2.) to be responsive and obedient to the Holy Spirit, and 3.) to firmly hold onto God’s promises.

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“Finding Myself Extra Amazed by God Today”

(from November 3, 2009)

This past week has been one of intense revelations. The contentment theme continues…

Today my gchat status said this: “finding myself extra amazed by God today.”

I don’t know why, but I really didn’t expect to be asked why. It stands to reason that people might want to know just what it was that prompted such a statement in the midst of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. I got SO many questions about it – “just what did God do for you?” and “why is God amazing?” and “PLEASE tell me the story behind your gchat status.” People were so curious and I think I learned two things from said curiosity – a.) it really matters what I say there (even in that tiny little box) because people really do pay attention, and b.) I really need to be giving God glory more often, and not just because people pay attention, though that’s a good reason as well.

So, what did happen? I’m sure you, like everyone else, are dying to know. It wasn’t that something really good happened at work, or that a huge prayer had been answered, or that a desire of my heart had been met… or was it?

I think it was the latter. The desire of my heart is increasingly God Himself… just to know Him better and to find Him… it’s a constant life of seeking and finding. Recognizing all that I am not and all that He is. Pushing myself to decrease and to allow Him to increase in me (John 3:30).

That gchat status gave me multiple opportunities to share with coworkers, friends, and acquaintances about my faith… and about the overwhelming feeling I get when I think about the cross and grace, and just how… close I get to be to God. It’s an honor, a privilege, humbling, and totally undeserved. It’s truly amazing… an answer to prayer and the desire of my heart granted.

I’m realizing more and more that it doesn’t matter what I think or want, unless I first want Him and His kingdom and that it’s incredibly prideful to think that I can be effective in the kingdom of heaven or bring glory to Him outside of His plan and my preordained role in it. Each day, He increases my desire to make Him great. It’s almost like I can feel my heart expand inside my chest and I want His will for my life more each day, whatever that may be… and I want to fill my proper role within the kingdom.

so, I hope that each day I find myself extra amazed by His friendship and increasingly grateful for His grace.