by Ann Higginbottom
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
It was a crisp, clear morning. The lingering heat of summer was finally behind us and hopeful traces of fall were beginning to pop up all around. That one morning, I swung the back door open to let the morning come seeping in. Our toddler Will set right to work, carrying toys and balls back and forth, inside and outside, with a little skip in his step. It seemed like the kind of morning I desperately needed—a break from the routine of racing out the door to make it to school, work, or the grocery.
I took the luxury of making another cup of coffee and thought that sitting on the back porch sounded like the perfect start to our day. Just then, Will came scampering back in with a surprised look on his face. “Uh oh! Mama’s phone!” His little hand grabbed mine and he led me out into morning air. Squatting down, he shoved his tiny finger between the wooden boards of our deck, pointing toward the dark and damp dirt several feet below. He said it again. Sure enough—Mama’s phone: lit up and lying perfectly out of reach below a deck secured by boards and nails.
I wish the conclusion of this moment involved a lot of laughter and some good power tools. It did involve a power tool, but it was accompanied by a sour and frustrated attitude. It wasn’t part of my plan that morning to dismantle a deck board by board. All for an iPhone sitting perfectly in sight but out of reach. I did figure out the drill and we did retrieve the phone, but my attitude in those brief moments stirred a great deal of thought for me. Why am I so opposed to the adventure of unplanned twists and turns? When things don’t go according to my plan, my default is to respond with frustration. But oh how gracious the Lord is to stop me in my tracks! How I long to embrace the new, the unexpected, as an adventure instead of an assault on my well laid plans.
As we approach another season of Advent, I find myself thinking of Mary and all of the unexpected twists and turns that no doubt crossed her path as the mother of Jesus. From the very beginning, she set out on a God-led adventure.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 2:30-33
Mary’s response to such bewildering, improbable news is starling. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word” (verse 38). When presented with a situation that seemed impossible and that would attract the judgment and questioning of others, Mary held her hands open. She didn’t push back. She didn’t lament about how having a baby would change everything for her—especially under these circumstances. From God’s Word, we don’t even see an emotional meltdown that articulated feelings of doubt, inconvenience, or shame. Though I feel certain this surprise (and every unusual) pregnancy was not part of Mary’s plan, she stepped into the Lord’s plan by faith. The Lord God was doing something extraordinary—swimming against the current of things “as they should be” and using unexpected circumstances to reconcile a merciful Creator with His broken creation.
The holiday season is upon us—a spirit of thanksgiving that lifts our eyes and prepares our hearts to enter Advent, the celebration of our coming Savior. With the busyness of festivities, I notice my tendency to have things organized and planned. There is so much to do and it is easy to get lost in the details of checking everything off of a list. Yet sometimes the adventures come in astonishing ways—at unplanned moments. A dismantled deck challenged me to embrace the moments that throw a wrinkle into my plans. The Lord is sovereign—His plans are steadfast. He is merciful to interrupt our rhythm so that we learn to see with new eyes. Beauty often flows in unexpected ways—just consider a virgin mother and her newborn Son and Savior, lying in a manger. Don’t miss the adventure that is laced into unforeseen moments. Our God is mighty to save, sometimes in surprising ways.