As I have mentioned before, I had the opportunity to review Sarah Clarkson's Journeys of Faithfulness this fall. With some review materials, we use it for the agreed-on time period, and then we move on. However, this was one that I enjoyed so much that both my daughter and I have continued reading it even though the review period is over. One of the women that Sarah focuses on is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Over the next three Mondays, I thought I'd share my personal reflections on what Sarah shares in her devotional and Bible study. I hope they challenge you to look at Mary in a different light this Christmas season.
One of the things that Miss Clarkson notes about Mary is her intimate and thorough knowledge of Scripture. I didn't think about that. But when you read what is traditionally called "The Magnificat" in Luke 1, have you ever wondered how Mary was able to spontaneously sing that? How does a teenager belt out a song that is so theologically sound?
Sarah goes on to point out that each line of Mary's song is taken straight from the Scripture that was available to her at that time, which were mostly prophets and psalms. (See if you can figure out where all these allusions in Mary's song came from!) No doubt about it, Mary knew God's Word! As the author notes, she is steeped deeply in Scripture and because of this she is able to speak forth truth when she opened her mouth.
But not only could Mary recite Scripture, she also knew that she was taking part of the story of that Scripture. We so often dissect the Word into chapters, verses and even words, picking what we like and skipping what we don't. Yet that is not the way it was meant to be read. The Bible tells a singular story---the story of redemption. But it's not over yet. The story is still going on. Mary knew it. She knew that God was at work and that He invited her to join in that work. The question is, do we know it? Are we able to see God at work around us today and join Him in that invitation, just as Mary did in her day?
I agree with Sarah. I don't think Mary was chosen simply because she was prettier or learned her housekeeping lessons better. She was chosen for her passion and love for God, His word and His work. It's not that she was smarter, godlier or stronger in her faith. I think it was because she was willing, obedient, and confident in her God because she was constantly thinking on Him and what He was doing.
This thought brought to mind a verse that was part of my memory work this year in Ephesians. In chapter 5, it tells us to address one another "with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (v. 19) In chapter 4, it challenges me to not let any corrupt word come out of [my] mouth, but only such as is good for building up, that it may give grace to all who hear. (v. 29) As I think about these two thoughts, it troubles me because I am afraid that this is not reflective of my heart or my words. More often than not, what comes out is not uplifting and definitely not Scriptural.
These past couple of years, I have noticed that even though I have been faithful to keep my quiet time with the Lord each morning, I have often been too wrapped up in my own story rather than His. Perhaps that is why I sometimes feel disgruntled when He asks me to do something that was not on my radar. I had no plans to adopt a special needs child. I was happy and content with my three healthy, beautiful children. There was no space in my heart for another. Life was moving ahead. I started writing and teaching more. I was excited for what I thought God was leading me into for the future. And most of all, I was done with diapers!
But that was not the story God was writing. I realized that I had stopped thinking on His story. I had become lax in my meditation and reflection on Scripture. So when the call to adopt came, I really balked. This was not part of my story!
But the thing is, He has chosen our family to take Anah into our family. At this point, I have a choice. Am I going to be focused on my story or His? His story involves caring for the fatherless (James 1:27). Will I, like Mary, enter into that story by faith? Will I willingly bear the care of a child that I never planned for as she did? While Anah is nowhere close to Jesus, Mary had to put up with not only the pains of pregnancy, but the snubs and scorn of the gossipy village housewives. Not only that, will I believe that He is writing a story that is far greater than one I can ever write for myself? Will I settle only for a cameo role when He asks me to play the lead?
Lord, may my mind, soul and heart be steeped in Your story, as Mary's was. Enlighten my heart to see Your hand in all the details of life. Most of all, may my life conform to Your story, not the other way around. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Stay tuned...next week: Part 2!