I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mary. You know, Jesus’ mom (not Magdalene, and not Martha’s sister….they really needed to start using last names in the Ancient Near East, seriously). Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming up, maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing a lot of blue lately, maybe it’s because I’ve gotten more into praying the rosary as of late. But no matter the cause, she’s been on my mind.
Growing up, I was never a huge Mary fan. She was someone to trot out around Christmas and in times when you needed an example of a woman of great faith, but I never really connected with the term “Blessed Mother”. Sure, she was Jesus’ mother, but not really mine…until I became a mother myself, at which point the jumping up and down in excitement quickly turned into dropping to my knees and begging her to ask her Son to keep me and my unborn child healthy. Suddenly, Mary was my Blessed Mother too and ever since then I’ve felt a certain kinship with her. The kind in which, if we were in similar social circles at school, we’d nod at each other upon passing in the hallway, maybe share a fist pump.
It’s probably a matter of the chicken and the egg–do I like praying the rosary because I feel pretty cool about Mary or do I feel pretty cool about Mary because I like praying the rosary? The world may never know, but while praying it last night during a drive, I was struck by her words at the Annunciation:
“And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.”
Luke 1:38, The Message translation
I love this translation purely because of the humor of how Gabriel breaks the news earlier in the chapter: “God has a surprise for you!” I’m sure many things ran through Mary’s mind–Joseph is secretly rich! I have a long lost sister! Free goat cheese for a year!–but I’m pretty sure “I’m going to have a scandalous pregnancy and a child out of wedlock!” wasn’t on the top of her list. And that makes her response so very, very meaningful: “Yes, I see it all now. I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”
Let’s get this straight: Gabriel didn’t just tell her that she had a simple task to do. He didn’t announce that she had to write a report on following God or say a special prayer or walk around a city seven times blowing a shofar. Those things would have been easy in comparison. He told her that she was going to radically give up her body to the miraculous child growing within it, to deal with cravings and exhaustion, with back pain and swollen ankles, with the inability to see her feet for months on end, with what for all she knew was going to be an excruciating labor that she could very well die in, all while dealing with the emotional upheaval that an unplanned, out of marriage pregnancy would bring.
He was telling her that her entire life was about to explode.
And she’s cool with that?!?!???!!!?!?!?
No wonder we call her Blessed.
You see, while I was praying the rosary last night, I realized in that deep, authentic way–not in the way that you read something and promptly forget it, but in the way that it changes your life once you realize this thing–that Mary’s response is recorded so that we can all say the same thing when God asks us to believe the impossible and radically dedicate ourselves to it. He laid out what looked like an incredibly raw deal, and she said “Okay!” out of complete trust and obedience. Would that I would be that obedient; what kinds of things could God achieve through me?! What kinds of things could God achieve through you if you accepted His call to the impossible?! Maybe it’s not as radical sounding as “You’re going to have a miraculous virgin birth”, maybe it’s something seemingly more simple:
“Go take this job you’re not sure of.”
“Serve Me in this specific way.”
“Reconnect with that old friend you hurt.”
“Step out of your comfort zone and into this ministry.”
“Forgive him for the way he hurt you; let My love shine through you.”
“Change your major.”
These might not seem like huge, life altering commands in comparison, but they are. Because you’ll be doing God’s work when you say “Yes, I will.” Just like Mary did. So from now on, just call me a handmaid; I’ll be responding to God’s most ridiculous sounding requests with obedience. Cause it worked pretty well for my homegirl there.