Great emphasis is given to the fact that the Son of God was born of a woman, but there is much to be learned from the woman herself. Mary was the girl who mothered Jesus. Ancient Jewish custom speculates that she could have been as young as twelve and no older than sixteen. Her age isn’t given in Scripture, but an educated guess would paint the image of a teenage peasant girl with nothing extraordinary to recommend her as the mother of Christ.
This Mary was just your average small-town girl. She was pledged to be married to Joseph, a humble carpenter who was from her hometown. Their engagement was probably announced in the local paper. Her mother’s friends probably stopped by to congratulate her and their daughters, her own friends, teased her about the wedding night. Her parents were likely pleased as punch that their daughter’s future was secure with the intended marriage to Joseph, the carpenter everyone knew and respected.
She would marry this Joseph of Nazareth and bear and raise his children. Maybe her dreams consisted of a big family and having Joseph crafting her the loveliest dining room table in town one day. We’re told that he was a good man, so her life would likely not be an unhappy one even if it was predictable.
As the story goes, her life trajectory changes the night an angel appears (angels almost always complicate matters). Gabriel appears and informs her that “you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
If I were to put the incredulity of this in a modern setting, it would look something like this: Mary is just a B average student and all she’s known for are her Tupperware parties. And she’s going to be Jesus’s mother? Isn’t she a little young?
There could not have been anyone seemingly unsuitable than Mary. Yet what sets her apart from other women is that before her body would conceive and give birth to the Son of God, her heart was meek and pliable. Mary probably did not fully comprehend exactly what was being asked of her, at least not at first, but she was wholly surrendered to the will of God.
When Mary was told that she would bear Immanuel, there were no tears or bitterness or fear. There was merely one follow-up question (“ummm…How is this possible if I’m a virgin?”) to the angel, and then an unquestioning yielding submission: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Little Mary was braver than we thought.
Mary didn’t know exactly what would happen to her (even if she knew the prophecies predicting the birth of Christ). She defied logic, emotion, circumstance and all because she trusted and obeyed what the angel told her. Her response to Gabriel doesn’t display any focus on the enormity of the task (bearing the Messiah) or the miraculousness of the miracle (bearing the Messiah as a virgin), but instead shows her trust in God’s sovereignty: “I’m His. So be it.”
Mary’s first step was to accept and believe what was told to her and then to receive it with the assurance that the Lord would be with her every step of the way.
I don’t have much in common with Mary, but one thing I would like is her faith.
You see, I have questions. Questions that I have asked over and over and over again. The immediate answer is always a deafening silence. This, of course, leads to more questions: “Is He punishing me with silence? Have I done something wrong? Am I even asking the right questions? Maybe He just likes playing hard to get?”
In circumstances that are beyond our comprehension, like Mary’s, it is so natural to make our own conclusions and act on emotions, on unbelief. We must remember that God’s silence does not mean His absence. He is never, ever, ever absent. It’s in these moments that our faith is refined. How do we handle the silence? Do we handle it with the same sureness that Mary did or do we cave into our own doubts?
In the great work, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape, the experienced demon once mentored a younger demon: “Do not be deceived. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
As Christians, our theology must be lived out or it is no good. No good at all. The silence still ensues, but there are a few things that I am certain of until I receive my answer:
Lord, I know You are kind
Lord, I know You are merciful
Lord, I know You are patient
Lord, I know that You are righteous
Lord, I know that Your ways are higher than mine.
No matter what the answers to my questions are, these truths are unchanging. I’ve resolved to act on my theology rather than my feelings and I’ve noticed my heart is changing in the process. I am choosing to trust Him even while I do not yet have the answers.
This journey has become about so much more than finding the answers. It’s become about discovering the why behind the silence. Does God entrust His silence to Christians because He knows it will make us stronger? Is it some spiritual warfare like in Daniel 10:12-13?
I don’t know, but until I know I’ll keep asking. Even while God is silent it doesn’t mean He isn’t working. So, I’ll trust in His heart until I can see His hand.