Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fourteen-years-old

I was a 14-year-old girl once.  Not a particularly pretty one, nor a self-confident one.  The summer I turned 14, several things happened to me.  I had braces, I was terribly skinny (though that's hard to believe now!), I got mono, and I got full-mouth herpes, which required me to get surgical cement over the braces.  The medicine I had to swish in my mouth for the herpes was called, "Gentian Violet" and it turned the surgical cement bright purple.  That was also the year I began high school, wearing tourquoise hot pants, made by my mother.  Just imagine!  It's no wonder I was a little insecure. 

We've all been (or will be) 14.  Sometimes I think about the fact that the most important thing that ever happened in my life happened when I was a scrawny, pimply-faced, purple-mouthed 14-year-old.  Meeting Jesus! So young, so immature, so foggy about what life was really about.  But God called me at that moment.  However, the truth is, the most important thing that ever happened in my life happened almost two thousand years before I was born to another 14-year-old girl.

Mary.  Read the story in Luke 1.  To be punny, it's an inconceivable moment.  14 was older then, we know.  Mary, as young as she was, was considered a woman.  But I don't quite picture her that way.  I looked at my girls when they were 14, and was stunned to think that God came to someone still such a baby herself.  But  one ordinary day, suddenly an angel named Gabriel stood in front of her, and began talking.  Like every other angel in scripture, he has to first tell her, "Be not afraid!" Angels must be pretty fierce creatures if they have to always reassure humans that they come from God.  Then comes the call to Mary.

Gabriel says, "Here's the thing, Mary.  God has picked you to be the mother of the Incarnate One, the mother of God in the flesh.  You will concieve and carry God Himself in your womb.  You will name Him Jesus..."
And Mary, this teenaged girl, barely past childhood, answers, "I don't understand how this will happen since I'm still a virgin."
"The Holy Spirit will plant Him inside you."
And Mary says these most amazing words, "I am the Lord's servant.  May it be to me according to your Word."

God called Mary and she answered.  In that call, the very call itself, is the equipping for it.  God doesn't call us to do anything He doesn't gift us with the power and capability of doing.  The Holy Spirit fills us with everything we need, just like He filled Mary's body, so that His will can be done. 
God called Mary and she had a question about it.  Not doubt (like Zechariah who ended up mute as a result), but merely confusion about 'how?'  God calls us and we are free to ask Him whatever will un-confuse that call for us.  It is okay to question Him, but there's a difference between questioning and doubting His ability to do what He tells us.
God calls Mary, telling her that no--NO--plan of His will ever fail.  We can trust this.  The enemy might try to whisper otherwise, but we can stand on these words.  "No word from God will ever fail."
God calls Mary, and once she understands, she obeys.  She humbles herself before His call, and invites Him to do whatever He wills.  In earlier translations, the phrase she uses is, "I am the Lord's handmaiden."  I love this.  It's an image of complete submission (more than I manage to be most of the time).  Discipleship--being a 'called one' is always, ultimately about surrender.
God calls Mary, and that call creates not fear, not planning, not doubt, not manipulating on her part.  He calls her and her response is worship.  This unimaginable, long-waited-for moment has come. "The virgin will conceive and bear a Son," the prophecy says.  And Mary, this young girl, recognizes her privilege, and responses in humble adoration.
In some sense, we are all Mary.  The Holy Spirit calls us to bear this amazing gospel, to carry the story of Jesus into every circumstance and every relationship.  How will you carry Him this day?  Will you say, "Be it unto me"?  Will you bow in surrender, and rise up in worship?

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