(This is part II of my last blog, Harnessed Strength. Please read that first.)
In my last blog I offered some thoughts on humility as harnessed strength. What I am suggesting is that at the core of having a powerful life is a deep yielding to a Larger Strength than our own. We must intentionally abandon our fierce commitment to figure out life on our own terms. And in it’s place we must adopt a new way of living where we are literally integrated into the Life of God, whereby He is the vine and we truly are the branches.
The story of the Centurion Soldier is nearly unbeatable as a parable of harnessed strength. Yet today, in my reading in the first few chapters of Luke, I stumbled upon an ancient story in a new light. With the exception of the cross, never before have I experienced a story that captures true strength, yielded, than that of Mary and the invasion of the Kingdom of God, through her birth of her son Jesus.
To really embrace the Scriptures, it is so essential to let the religious layers be peeled back. Remember, the Bible is not a book of exceptions, as Eldredge so eloquently explains. It is a book of examples of the life that is available to us through the power and presence of Jesus in our lives.
This morning I paused in the midst of my overcommitted world. I elected to walk to work instead of drive, deliberately slowing down and breathing in the crisp cold mountain air. Allowing the darkness of the early morning to fuel a much needed intimacy with God. I arrive at my office, light a candle, worship (to a phenomenal song, Be My Everything by Tim Hughes – see video below) and settle in. I crack open the Gospel of Luke and read again the account of Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel. I ask the Father to pull back the religious veils and the assumptions that make Mary more divine than human in my provincial and feeble interpretations. Now I see her as a single 13 year old Hebrew girl who is barely old enough to conceive a child. An eager, yet young, heart for the Living God.
An angel visits her and tells her that not only is she pregnant, but she is pregnant with the Messiah. Think of the emotions that would instantly flood any young, single, girl’s heart, as she pees on the stick and tests positive for pregnancy. In an instant her whole world changes. Fear, shame, confusion, unbelief. Now imagine Mary. She is not peeing on a stick, but is instead face to face with one of the most mighty warrior angels of the Kingdom of God. And this isn’t just any pregnancy… it’s Jesus, the son of God, in her womb…
Her reaction is what stopped me in my tracks this morning. “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Keep in mind Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Under Jewish law, Richard Exley explains, violation of fidelity to a betrothed person was considered an act of adultery and was punishable to death by stoning. In spite of the unbelief, in spite of the utter fear of the implications that lay before her, she reaches ever deeper into some wellspring of life. She is able to respond with a full heart saying, “more than anything, my heart and my life are yielded to God.” Simply stunning.
As the text goes on, (Luke 1:39) she goes to the house of Elizabeth and there she breaks out in spontaneous worship to God. Verse 46-56 has to be one of the most holy unedited displays of worship in all of scripture. Mary begins saying first, “My soul glorifies the Lord” (v. 47) and then secondly she acknowledges what it was that God saw in her – her humility. It was this factor that moved the heart of God – her harnessed strength and her yielding to him. Something in God’s heart knew that the story He was writing was daring and risky. He needed someone with a quality that was rare and remarkable so that he could carry out this Grand Invasion of His Kingdom, against seemingly insurmountable odds. And as the worship continues, Mary goes from praising God, to acknowledging God seeing her humility. She then launches in, verse after verse, to claim the power of God and His Kingdom.
Mary may be young but she is wise beyond her years. She understands what it means to live a powerful life. She knows something of the heart of God.
As I read this story, a holy jealousy rises up and with it a deep desire burns in me to have that same heart.
I find myself asking the Father, what parts of me are yet to be yielded on this day?
What is it that you have yet to yield to God?
As we move into this season of the celebration of Immanuel, God with us, this is my deep encouragement to you. Pause. Somewhere, somehow and get alone with God. Be still. Acknowledge your desire to be a man yielded to His will, His purposes and His dreams for your life. Ask Him what is in the way. And enter into 2011 a more yielded man. A stronger man. A truer man.
(Side note: One of my all time favorite Christmas books is The Indescribable Gift. Richard Exley has done a stunning job to capture through narrative, history, tradition and Scripture the mysterious and miraculous stories of the season. Through the art and the text, year after year this book helps Christmas come alive. A full chapter is dedicated to the account of Mary. I strongly recommend reading this to help bring Immanuel deeper into your heart this year.)
Watch Be My Everything by Tim Hughes