by Carlene Archer, Chatsworth, Georgia
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38)
Fourteen years ago, a major life change struck me. I stared at the unmistakably clear message on the little plastic stick familiar to thousands of women. Not even my mind for detail could comprehend this inconvenient truth -- I was pregnant for a third time! With ironic timing, just before Christmas 1994, I had to accept the shocking fact that I had three children, not two! My husband and I were left seasick from the turbulence of our emotions. The inevitability of what I faced, and the 90-degree turn to my life's path, shook me to the very roots of my soul.
Though panicked, I held onto my faith enough to know that I was blessed. My husband and I, secure in our marriage, believed this pregnancy was both a miracle and a part of God's will. I knew my baby would have a caring father. My friends would see my pregnancy as perfectly natural for my place in life. But during that first nausea-filled week of knowledge, I felt more trapped than blessed. I knew that was a sign of weakness, but I couldn't shake it. I knew God could give me the strength to have peace -- if He would (Mark 9:24).
We don't have solid evidence that Jesus' earthly mother, Mary, faced the same feelings when the angel paid her that famous, fateful house call. But there are similarities between our situations. God did not ask Mary if she would consider bearing His Son. The angel simply declared that it was going to be so. God had committed Mary's body, and mine, to a fate that neither of us had sought -- nor even desired. But God also gave us the power to choose the course of action for our minds and our spirits.
Certainly Mary's pregnancy disrupted her life more than mine did. But her reaction to the angel's revelation helped me embrace my situation with my whole being. In Luke 1, we learn that Mary almost immediately responded: "I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said." Through faith, she chose to commit all of herself to God's will...not just her body, but also her mind and her spirit.
We face a similar choice every time we help lead worship. Once we agree to help present worship music, it's a given that our bodies are committed. But how many times have we zoned out because a song's familiarity has drained it of meaning? Or stood there distracted by our child's bad report card? How often have we felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit during a set and been too distracted by circumstances to hear what God was saying? Unfortunately, our minds and spirits don't always unconsciously follow the path of acceptance that our bodies walk each Sunday morning. How do we choose to commit?
I spent the next eight months repeating Mary's statement, "May it be as you say." I see clearly now that choosing, as Mary did, to "glorify the Lord" (Luke 1:46) in the midst of an unexpected turn of life can transform a stumbling block into a stepping stone to faith.
I soon discovered that those words kept coming back to my mind over and over again. As my belly grew and my feet disappeared, they helped me focus on the blessings hidden in everyday life. As I patiently waited for my 7-year-old to tie my shoes because I couldn't reach my feet, they helped me realize that my cumbersome new body was forcing me to slow down and find true joy in my children -- all three of them.
The next time God commits our bodies to a surprising turn of His will, and we have to drag our mind and spirit along for the ride, let's look for the faith to make a conscious decision to remember Mary's words of praise and worship: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."
Dear Father: When You lead my body, help my soul and my mind follow Your path so that my love for You may be complete. In Jesus' name, Amen.
1. Have you ever experienced an unexpected turn of events, yet felt God's hand in it? Would you share that with the group?
2. What could declaring Mary's simple statement of faith, "May it be as you say," mean for you during this Christmas season?
3. How can we allow God to turn what we consider to be stumbling blocks into stepping stones of faith?