Do you ever just get tired of trying to figure everything out?
Even as I write that, I know there are those fortunates among us who will scratch their heads, furrow their brows, and think: What, like when you’re working the Sunday morning crossword puzzle? Oh, to live in that bliss!
No, I’m talking about something a bit further reaching than the crosswords—Life. Our days. How they are spent, how they’ve been spent, how they will be spent. Our steps. Where they have led us, where they will lead us to, if they’re even moving us in the right directions. How, where, if…all the questions, all questioning.
I’m not that great with the I-don’t-know’s in life.
Yet the call I’ve answered opens up one thousand questions and accepts only one response as true and correct: He who called you is faithful, and He will do it.
But what does that MEAN????
Blessed is She Who Believed
I learned a bit more about Mary recently that’s helping me unravel some of this tightly wound need-to-know I carry around all the live-long day. Now, one of the great things about learning the Word from childhood is that you’re able to take things at face value. Angel appeared to a virgin, told her she was about to be pregnant with the Son of God? No problem. Virgin’s fiancée gets a visit by an angel, says it’s all good, so he decides to believe it and marry her? Yep. Got it. To my trusting, 5 year-old mind, this was completely plausible. Of course it could happen. But then you grow up. You move away from the stories a bit. You get to know yourself and humanity, fear and doubt. And sometimes the believing gets harder in the process, so you try not to read the stories too closely, not to raise too many questions.
Because sometimes the calls to faith our young ears heard also whispered: it’s really not okay to ask questions.
But a virgin. Visited by an angel. Question 1: what in the world would I do if an angel just popped up in my living room? Told by the angel she’s going to have a child. Question 2: how would I have known that A.) this was really an angel, not just some escapee psych patient and B.) he was really speaking on behalf of God? Told that this child will be the Son of the Most High, that He will rule over Jacob’s descendants forever. Question 3: did she instantly believe the angel? Is that the kind of woman that she was? Is that why she was chosen, why she found favor with God? Question 4: could I ever hope to be that kind of woman?
Question 5 (asked not by me, but by Ethel Herr, author of this wonderful study): What risks did Mary take in yielding her body to God to accomplish His plan through her?
Come on now. She’d just been chosen to carry the Son of God. What do you mean “risks”? And then it hits me: Mary had plans for her future. She was young, engaged, a virgin in a time when getting pregnant outside of marriage was unspeakable, especially for a faithful, young, betrothed Jewish girl. She was risking disgrace. She was risking a broken engagement – losing a man who was promised to her, who was preparing to take her as his wife. She was risking shunning, shame, possibly even punishment from anyone who did not believe what the angel had told her.
We know that at least one of those risks was almost realized. Joseph planned to separate himself from her, to leave her alone. Mary could have considered that risk. She could have foreseen that as a possible outcome of her surrender to God’s will. And she could have said no. She could have asked God for a guarantee that Joseph wouldn’t up and r-u-n-n-o-f-t before she signed on the dotted line. But instead of insisting on contingencies, she simply replied, “I serve the Lord. Let it be as you’ve said.”
Question 6: would I have said the same, and as simply?
I don’t know. And so I think about the things I’ve been asked to do, the times God has led me in a specific direction, and what it’s been like to obey. My attempts at faith, at obedience, may have been feeble, but He has always been so faithful to step in, grab that little bit of trust and make beautiful things.
But what about today? What about the situations I’m dealing with right this second, where I can’t see the ending? What do I do when it feels like I’m emptying every single bit of myself out, and I have no idea if I’ll someday be able to say it was worth it? What does it look like to trust Him now?
Peace vs. Understanding
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to approach God in prayer and thanksgiving, to let Him know our needs. The promise is that if we do this, His peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I’ve always taken that last part, you know, the peace that passes understanding, and figured that was just referring to a peace so amazing, so profound, that it couldn’t be understood. But is that what it really means? What exactly is a peace that surpasses understanding? What does it mean to ‘surpass’ something? Webster defines it as this:
sur·pass 1: to become better, greater, or stronger than
It’s that ‘to become better’ that grabs me. And I wonder: is the worth of this peace perhaps not that it is so profound it can’t be understood, but that it actually replaces our need to understand, this untamed craving to know and have all of our questions answered? Think about it. The peace of God, a peace that is capable of guarding your heart and mind in Christ, is far more valuable than being able to understand whatever it is you’re going through. Having all the answers won’t guard my heart, won’t protect my mind. If anything, having the answers will only lead me to more questions. I know full well that the only power capable of guarding my heart and mind is the power of God’s peace. And yes, I would rather have that peace than a detailed explanation of how my future will play out.
Does that mean I sit here today, question-free? ‘Fraid not. I’ve got questions. I certainly do. My life doesn’t look nearly like what I thought it would by this point in the game. There are dreams I have for the future that used to seem just moments away, and now maybe it feels a bit like they’ve been slung out into space again. There are gifts I have, and I wonder when they’ll really begin to be used. There are longings that lie open, unfulfilled.
But there’s a gorgeous day I’ve been given. Unobstructed breaths of fresh air, spontaneous words of grace and healing from souls who aren’t afraid to give the Holy Spirit a voice. There’s a peace that, when I stop my spinning long enough to reach for it, guards my heart and mind beautifully, perfectly. And that peace has become so much more important to me than the answers. That peace stills my heart, quiets my mind. It offers me robes of strength and dignity, and a chance to laugh at the days to come.
It offers me a chance to be that kind of woman.