I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mary this holiday season. I think anyone who is pregnant at Christmas can't help but think of her. When I stop to consider that she was the age of my students and faced with a huge wall of rejection and shame, at a time when she was most vulnerable, she becomes more human to me. Mary has never been someone who stood out to me. She seemed meek, but she asked to do one of the most difficult things anyone has ever been asked to do. As a young Hebrew woman, she risked everything to be the mother of Christ. In a society where she had few resources, faced certain isolation and rejection, she took a step forward in faith and agreed to be a part of a miracle that we still don't understand today.
I wish I knew where Mary stumbled. What did she obsess over? Did she cry over her potential loss of Joseph? Did she worry if it all would work out? When she felt a strange pain or discomfort, did she wonder if her baby would be safe and delivered healthy? This was a time when almost 50% of women died while giving birth. Did she wonder if she would live to see her child? Were their moments when she regretted her faith? I think she must of struggled, she was human, but despite her struggles she kept moving forward.
When I think of Mary, I think of Sara. There is a stark difference between Sara and Mary. God blessed Sara and Abraham with Isaac, despite Sara's lack of faith. He blessed the world because of Mary's abundance of faith. I am more of a Sara than a Mary. I was recently involved in an conversation with someone who reads my blog and they commented on how by giving up my desire, I was given my desire. I don't think it is as simple as that.
Over a period of years, I was forced to break down and give up little pieces of myself to God. I am still doing it. I clutch to my job and my marriage unwilling to let go and let God. My journey through infertility was my way back to God who never left me. He was always powerful and always miraculous, but I wasn't always willing to see that. Like Sara I put God in a box. He wouldn't love me, He couldn't forgive me, and I was on my own. My first step in letting go of my box led to other steps and slowly I saw that God was much bigger than my simple definition.
However, even while I grew I kept the box open. When the doctors felt like pregnancy wasn't an option and we had gone as far as we agreed to go in fertility treatments, I decided that pregnancy was impossible for me. In my prayers, I would ask God for his plan, but I was still pushing my plan. There were several times before Ashley came that I felt something was wrong, but I pushed the feeling away and pushed forward. When she came, there were moments that clear signs that God's plan was not for her to be part of our family, but I glossed over them and pushed forward. Honestly, if I wasn't pregnant, I am not sure that would have stopped pushing to make it work. Even when we first found out, I was still trying to work it out. At no point in the time that Ashley was here did I ask God for his plan.
I would pray, but I would avoid the "thy will be done" part. In my heart of hearts, I knew what God's will was and I didn't want to hear it. I put God in a box. This box said that only we could love Ashley and that God wasn't big enough to keep her safe, heal her, and provide us with a family. It seems sad and stupid now, but I held onto that box with all my heart. I was still holding onto pieces of it until a few days ago.
One summer, I was attending a chapel service at JH Ranch. The camp had chapel in a big tent that had a view of the Siskiyous. Sitting in a small prayer group, I had a moment where I looked up and saw that mountains covered in thousands of lightening strikes. It was a powerful, visceral and stunning picture of a God who can't be put in a box. For the first time, I realized that God was bigger than I thought. That was my last summer camp and it would take 16 years for me to think about that night again, but the memory was as powerful as the experience. I am loved by a great, wonderful, fearful, and awesome God. Not only has he planned the life growing in me, but he controls the very elements that surround me. Who am I to box that up?
Mary may have had a box, but she fought past it. Sara's box was ripped apart. Mine is slowly is being torn apart. I stumble and get stuck. I have millions of foibles and anxieties and yet each day I am being pushed to change. Each day I am pushed forward in faith, and each day I try not to resist.