When you find yourself in the shame pit

My husband recently went camping in the mountains with some guys from church.  They were warned about bear activity in the area, and that there was one bear in particular who was especially determined.  Being mindful of that, they hiked along and set up camp for the night.  They did all the things they were supposed to do to keep the bear out of their food and hung their food bags from a tree away from their camp site.  The idea was that hopefully keeping the food off the ground would be a deterrent for the bear, but at least if he did get the food, it wasn’t right there in the camp where the bear would be tromping around in their tents.

Well, remember this bear (who they named Kevin) was determined.  I guess a little thing like elevation wasn’t going to keep him from his prize.  So Kevin just climbed that tree and got ahold of those food bags.  Clearly Kevin was hungry and he wasn’t playing around.  (The guys were all fine by the way.)

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes though?  You do all the things you’re supposed to do, you dot all your “I”s and cross all your “T”s and somehow you still find yourself in the pit.  I mean, how does that happen?  How is it that you can be going along just fine, moving in a good direction, doing what you think is the thing God has set out for you, following all the rules and suddenly everything goes careening off the rails.

You find out you have a little one on the way.  You take all the vitamins, follow all the doctor’s orders, do everything you can to take care of yourself and it ends in miscarriage.

You send your kids to church, thankful for a place where they can learn about Jesus and find godly friends.  You put your trust in leaders to teach and encourage your child, only to find out that your child has been molested by one of the very ones you trusted.

You do your best to be a good husband or wife.  You are faithful and kind and try and keep God at the forefront of your marriage.  But one day your spouse comes to you and tells you they love someone else and don’t want to be married to you anymore.

It seems so unfair.  And wrong.  And confusing.

I remember hearing Beth Moore say once that sometimes we find ourselves in the pit because we jump right in there with both feet, but then other times we end up in the pit because we either fell in or we were pushed.

Now I can spend all day telling you about all the stupid things I’ve done in my life that have left me in less than desirable places.  I could list decision after decision that led me onto paths that weren’t at all what God wanted for me.  It’s very true that more often than not, I am where I am completely of my own doing.  But I can also recall a few times where I found myself in a dark place because either someone did something that put me there or else things just went south and there was really nobody to blame.

But here’s the thing.  Regardless to how you got there, the enemy will do everything he can to keep you in the pit.  And one of his favorite tools to do that is shame.

My pastor preached on shame this weekend and how the accuser uses it to bring separation between us and God.  He said to overcome shame, we must learn to separate who we are from what we do.  Yes and amen to that.  I would even add that we must separate who we are from what we do….as well as from what has been done to us.

God is not the author of shame anymore than He is the author of sin.  And God doesn’t use shame to “keep us in line.”  Does the Holy Spirit convict us when we make decisions that move us away from God?  Absolutely.  But there’s a pretty considerable difference between conviction and condemnation.  Conviction leads us to repentance.  Condemnation leads us to shame.

Psalm 34:4-5 says this:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

We also read this in Romans 10:11:

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

I cannot say it enough.  Shame is absolutely from the enemy.  And the enemy’s number one priority is to put a rift between us and Jesus.  Covering us in shame weighs us down and distorts our view of Jesus and who we are in Him.  Shame causes separation and that’s never God’s desire.

I’d love for you to take just a moment and ask God if you are allowing shame to keep Him from having every bit of your heart.  Maybe you made some sketchy choices and you’re somewhere you never thought you’d be.  Or maybe something happened to you…something someone else did or something that just has no good explanation…and you’re now living in condemnation because of it.  Whatever the cause, Shame. Is. Not. From. God.  It’s not how God operates and don’t you let the accuser make you believe differently.

God desires peace…wholeness…shalom…for us.  Shame was nailed to the cross when Jesus gave Himself on our behalf.  Satan uses shame to keep us feeling defeated and hanging our heads.  But in Christ, shame has no power.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. ~Psalm 3:3-4

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What I learned from an unclean spirit

I started a study through the book of Mark a little over a week ago.  In true form, I’m only three days in, but they’ve been a good three days.  It’s interesting what things stand out when you read scripture slowly and really sink your teeth in.

In Mark chapter 1, starting in verse 21, it says Jesus went to Capernaum and started teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

~ Mar 1:21-22 NIV

Evidently these people had never heard anyone teach like Jesus before.  There was something different about Him.  He taught with authority and it was enough to make the people take pause.

But the enemy wasn’t having it.  Immediately following this verse, there’s a distraction.

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

~ Mar 1:23-24 NIV

Jesus is right in the middle of teaching and the people are finding themselves being drawn to Him and boom…the enemy sends an interruption.  But here’s a couple of things I thought were interesting about this scene.

First, I wonder how long this guy with the unclean spirit had been hanging around the synagogue.  Like, who was he? And what was his influence on the people around him before now?  Did they know already that he was possessed or was it only in the presence of Jesus that he was forced to reveal himself?

Either way, I think it’s worth noting here how important it is that we stay connected to Christ and in constant fellowship with Him.  That we stay in the scriptures.  That we stay aware of what’s going on around us.  That we are in the habit of renewing our minds (Romans 12:2).  Because Satan is sneaky.  Who knows where he’s hanging around or how long he’s been there?  And if we are counting on our own eyes to see his schemes, we’re in trouble.

Second, it’s interesting how this unclean spirit decided to out himself.  There’s Jesus teaching like nobody ever and all of a sudden there’s this guy crying out and detracting from the moment, but he’s doing it by addressing Jesus as the Holy One of God.  It would seem like this demon is working against the enemy by confirming Jesus’ identity.  And while that might be a little true, the fact is that even sometimes things we think are God things can be distractions from the main thing.

Jesus wasn’t having any nonsense and immediately cast the demon out, but then in the next verse it says,

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

~ Mar 1:27 NIV

Only a couple of verses before, the people were astonished by Jesus’ teaching.  They were listening to the Son of God talking about His father and they were enthralled.  Now it says they were amazed by His authority over demons and immediately His fame spread throughout the region.  I can’t help but wonder what spread the most from that occasion?  His words or His works?  Is it possible that the enemy thought that using a miracle would take the focus off what Jesus was teaching?  That people would be more interested in what Jesus could do for them than what He had to say to them?  Sorta like, fix their bodies, but stay away from their hearts?  Because the heart change was really the point, right?

Sometimes even things that seem good or right might not be best.  Sometimes the things we do for God can start to overshadow our walk with God.  Like it starts to be more about the doing than the being.  It’s like something Noelle said the Pursue the Passion conference this past weekend.

Walking with God is far better than walking for Him. 

It might seem like semantics, but think of it like this.  If I’m walking beside someone, conversation is easier.  Eye contact is easier.  But following along behind or getting ahead  can break the connection.  It’s easy to miss part of the conversation or even the direction the other person is going.

It’s not to say that doing God’s work is a bad thing.  But when our relationship with God gets off track because we’re fixed on this thing or that thing, God’s work really isn’t God’s work anymore.  Now it’s our work.  And I’ve come to realize more and more that if I’m going to stay in line with God’s will for me, then I’m going to have to stay in line with Him.

God, help me keep my focus.  When my eyes wander to great and mighty things instead of the Great and Almighty God, draw me back.

a beautiful exchange

When only love could make a way

You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange.

-Beautiful Exchange, Hillsong Live

I’ve just sitting here trying to pound out something on this keyboard.  I don’t know why this has gotten so hard.  And just about the moment I’m going to give up and go to bed, this song starts playing in my headphones.

…trading Your life for my offenses,

for my redemption You carried all the blame…

And it’s appropriate since we are nearing Easter, or Passover as it’s probably more appropriately called.  And my mind drifts to a place long ago where men were gathered together at the feast of Pesach, or Passover in English, and their Rabbi does the strangest thing.  He breaks the unleavened bread and tells them to take it and eat it,

This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

The Bible says He then takes the cup and tells them,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

 And it would seem then at the moment, that whole thing just went right by the disciples.  Oh, remembrance of you.  New covenant.  Hmmm, yes Jesus.  That sounds nice.  Clearly they missed something because in Luke, right after this part, the next thing you know the disciples are arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

(You know, sometimes as I’m reading this sort of thing going on amongst the men who were closest to the Messiah, I’m thinking man, you guys were a bunch of dunderheads.  But I have no room to talk.  I can be a pretty big dunderhead myself most times.)

They’re sitting there (or I guess reclining there) having a meal with their Rabbi and even in the midst of a meal, He’s teaching them.  In the miraculous, He’s teaching them.  Even in the mundane, He’s teaching them.

In everything, He’s showing them how to walk in His dust.  How to follow Him.  How to live in a way that pleases the Lord and brings glory to His name.

Because that’s really it.  Doing all things to His glory.  Doing everything, all the while remembering Him…

Remembering the beautiful exchange that was made on the cross…His life for mine.

Remembering that I am restored by the grace and mercy that poured out red.

Remembering that I am whole because He was broken.

Remembering that I have life because He conquered death.

Yes, it was a beautiful exchange.  His life for mine.

And what’s even more beautiful to me is that now, I live, having exchanged my life for His.

I remember Him…because He remembered me.

Five Minute Friday: Roar

I’m linking up today with Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday.  On 5MF, we just write for five minutes straight with no backtracking or tweaking.  Just type it out as it falls right out of your head.

This week’s topic:  Roar

When you’re done here, be sure to head over the Lisa Jo’s page and have a read over some other 5MF contributions!

START!

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

Selah

Psalm 46:1-3

The waters are swirling…seeming to overcome.  The roaring of the waves as they crash are deafening.  The creaking of the boat as it bounces and pitches around in the tumultuous sea may imply that it would come completely apart.  The fearful cries of grown men ringing out across the water as they begin to wonder if they will make it out of this thing alive.  Is there really something on the other side of this sea that’s worth all this?

And in the middle of it all, where is He?

Asleep in the bow of the ship.

Complete chaos all around Him, and the Lion of Judah lay at peace, resting in the midst of it.

Those in His presence had nothing to fear.  The waters know Him by name.  The winds had heard His voice since they blew for the very first time.

But yet, those who followed Him succumbed to their fear.  The roaring of the water as it crashed into the boat shook them to the very core.

And they called out to Him.

And He answered.

The roar of the storm could not overpower the hushing by the Lion of Judah.

He was in the midst…He is in your midst.

He is hushing your storm, quieting your raging sea.

Shhhhh.  Can you hear Him?

Shhhhh.

Hush now.  It’s going to be alright.

I am here.

STOP….

Just like that.

Still hanging around in Luke 1.  As I was reading and pondering through Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel that I posted yesterday, my eyes couldn’t help but drift across the page to see Mary’s response to Gabriel.

Both Mary and Zechariah were presented with what to them seemed impossible.  Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both on up in their years, and had yet to conceive a child.  But there was Gabriel standing there telling Zechariah to prepare for a child that was to come.  Told him this kid would be amazing.  Even told him what to name the boy.  And although Zechariah’s heart was probably doing flip-flops, his mind just could not…would not…fathom such a thing.

 Zechariah asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this?

I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

Luke 1:18

You can almost feel the pain and the hope all stirred up together in his question.  Tangible bitterness manifesting as doubt…a deep need for certainty.

Mary on the other hand hadn’t experienced an endlessly empty womb.  She hadn’t known the desperation of wanting to hold her tiny infant in her arms and the heartbreak of yet another year that passes without a child of her own.  Mary was really just a child herself at the time.

So Gabriel shows up and paints this amazing picture for Mary of this son that she will bear…that he will be the Son of the Most High, that his kingdom will be great, that he will reign forever.  And Mary’s response is:

“How will this be,”

Mary asked the angel,

“since I am a virgin?” 

Luke 1:34

Now just a side note here, but one thing that cracks me up a little about this exchange between Mary and Gabriel is that when Gabriel arrives and says to her “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” the Bible says that Mary was troubled by this and wondered what kind of a greeting this was.

Kind of an uh-oh moment for her, I guess.  I mean, when the Lord sends an angel and tells you that you are highly favored, would the knee-jerk response be to wonder what in the world God was getting ready to ask us to do?

Anyway, I think the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses has everything to do with heart behind them.  Zechariah’s heart had been saddened by the lack of a child and so he’d probably allowed bitterness to take root there and I can imagine that somewhere deep down inside he may have even begun to doubt God’s promise.

I think Mary’s response was less about doubt and more about an innocent wonder at how God was going to pull this off.  Not so much a lack of belief, but more of a child-like question of “why?” only this was instead “how?”

So she goes from fear and confusion as to how it is that she got to be highly favored, and now that the angel has given her the news, she’s thinking to herself, okay now wait a second.  How is God going to do this since I’ve never been with a man?  And just as simply as she asks, Gabriel simply answers:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Just like that.

And just like that Mary says…well, okay.

Not, alright now how exactly is that going to work?  What do you mean by “the Spirit coming upon me?”  Could you give me a little more info there, Gabe?

 Just simply, okay.  May it be to me as you have said.

And as incredible as the angel’s explanation is, Mary had her answer and that was that.  Although she may not have completely understood the answer, she accepted it and was willing to let God handle the particulars.

We won’t always understand everything God asks us to do.   In fact, there will probably be lots of times where He asks us to do something so incredible, so totally out of our norm that at the moment makes little sense to us.  And it’s in the those times that we have to receive our answer in faith and trust that in God’s plan and in His time, everything will fall into place.

Because it will…

Drug addicts, homeless people, and a random sheep

For the last few years (with the exception of a few 80s and 90s kickback moments, a little Michael Jackson here and there and a few Indie bands) for the most part I listen to Christian music.  So although I was vaguely familiar with her drug and alcohol problems, I was otherwise pretty oblivious to Amy Winehouse and her music.  That is until a few days ago when the news hit the she’d passed away.  Reading online articles written about her tumultuous lifestyle was really just sad, but I think what was worse was reading comments from the general public written in response to those articles.  Disrepsectful and just down right cruel things that people said really just turned my stomach.  For sure she had drug addictions, alcoholism, and a potty mouth but that doesn’t remove the fact that a mother and father had to bury their daughter today.

I just felt heavy with grief as I thought about this life stolen away by addiction…at all the lives lost and moments lost to some form of addiction every day in this world.

I was sharing all this with my soul sister Mandi at our Tuesday morning coffee time this morning.  She shared with me about this homeless fella she and her fiance’ Jeremy had met over the weekend.  They’d gotten him something to eat and talked to him about Jesus.  It would have been just as easy to judge him…or any homeless person for that matter.  We can’t always know what gets a person into that kind of predicament but it’s not uncommon for it to be the result of feeding an addiction that wins out over jobs and houses and families.

But God reminded me today that we all have our vices…our addictions.  And He has grace to cover them all.

And without Him, we are all trainwrecks.  Without Him we are all lost.

In the middle of our conversation, Mandi opened her Bible to Matthew 10:1-2

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Did you catch that switch?   In the first part, they are called disciples but in the second part they are called apostles.  So we looked up the two words.  Turns out the root word of “disciple” means “to learn.”  The word “apostle” means basically “one who has been sent on a particular mission.”  All their learning from Jesus wasn’t just for their own benefit.  He taught them and then gave them His authority and they were sent on their mission.  We have been given that same authority and mission.

And as Mandi and I are talking through this, I look up and there looking into the window of the coffee shop is…

A sheep.

No joke.

A real live, flesh and blood sheep, ya’ll.

At first I was as little concerned about what might have been in my coffee, so I was somewhat relieved when Mandi and the other handful of folks there saw it too.

And this sheep was scared.  I could see it shaking.  It ran into the corner out on the patio area and then darted back to the door and back to the patio again.  When a couple of folks walked outside to get a closer look, the sheep ran off…by way of the drive-thru.  Insane I tell you.

But here’s where the really crazy part comes in.  Yes, I know the sheep at the Coffee Shack is crazy enough but hang onto your hat…

The sheep had a yellow tag in it’s ear with the number 102.

Remember we’d just read the first two verses of Chapter 10 of Matthew about five minutes before the sheep showed up?  I guess when God wants to drive a point home…

So, although I’m sure I’ll be thinking on this one for a while, here’s what I’ve gleaned from all this so far:

1.  There is a time to learn, and a time to use what you’ve learned.  We need to study the Word and spend time with the Father in order to learn, but at some point the time comes for us to go and tell what we’ve learned to someone else.  We are not just called…we are also sent.

2.  We all need a Savior and although ultimately the choice is ours, God’s heart is to be reconciled with all of mankind.  There is none too far gone for His grace, no heart too black to be washed white as snow by the blood of Christ.

3.  Sheep are fast.

4.  God is an incredibly amazing God who uses the craziest things to get our attention sometimes.

As “sent ones,” we’ve got places to go and people to see.  God is too good, His Word is too alive, His grace too abundant for us not to tell others about Him.  He is the Overcomer in the face of addiction, the Mighty One who tears down strongholds, the Redeemer who takes our broken mess and breathes new life into us.

Check out this quote from Hartley’s “Researches in Greece and the Levant”:

“Having had my attention directed last night to the words in John 10:3 I asked my man if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was, and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then had him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him. The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them.

My post-sheep-sighting prayer would be that you and I would never get tired of teaching others about the goodness of the Lord, of showing His love and compassion to others, of telling the lost sheep about the Shepherd.  We all had to learn our name sometime.

What’s in a name?

One of the songs we sang at church this past weekend was called Break Every Chain by Will Reagan and United Pursuit BandIt’s a pretty simple song but with an incredibly powerful message…

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain…

There’s more to the song than that – you can listen to the rest here – but just that part was playing through my head this morning and it got me thinking.  Power in the name…the name, the name, the name…Jesus.  What is it about the name of Jesus that is powerful?  I mean, it’s just a name isn’t it?  How can a name have power?  Well, let me tell you how.

In Hebrew, Jesus’ name was Yeshua which was a shortened version of Yehoshua (Joshua)…sort of like Bill would be short for William.  His name really wasn’t that uncommon for the Jewish people.  So what then would make the name Jesus of Jesus Christ have power that some other person’s name Jesus wouldn’t have?  Well, first I thought about what His name means…Yeshua in Hebrew means God is salvation.  But Yeshua is sort of a combination of two root words – Yehovah and yasha.  Now I’m guessing you already know what Yehovah means – God or Lord.  According to the Strong’s concordance yasha means to save or be saved, to be delivered, or to give victory to.  So there IS power in the name of Yeshua – God’s power to deliver us.  His very name is a reminder that in God we have victory.

In Revelation, we see Jesus in His returning glory and specifically in Revelation 19:13 we are told that His name is called The Word of God.  Well, now if there’s power anywhere to break chains, it’s in God’s word for sure!  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  All authority has been given Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).  And the Bible tells us that the Word of God is alive and active (yes He is!) and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) – certainly sharp enough and strong enough to separate us from our strongholds.

There is power in the name of Jesus – Yeshua, the Word of God – to break every chain…yes there is. 

 

 

 

The List

Alright well it’s that time of year….THE LIST!!!!  Resolutions for things I will do different this upcoming year.  Honestly I don’t know why I ever make a “list” because I never do what I say I’m going to do, but maybe if I share my list with you, it will make me more likely to at least acknowledge it from time to time.  Feel free to periodically hold me accountable.  Here goes…

1.  I will finish something.  I am the world’s worst procrastinator and the world’s best at losing interest in something.  I have been doing an honest assessment of myself recently and have found that I am in fact all talk.  I have lots of great ideas, I just have no follow through.  Yes…this year, I will finish something.

2.  I will be more consistent with my blog.  I started out strong, as always, but then my posts became less and less regular and further and further apart (see #1).  I love blogging.  I will not quit.  I will not give up.  I will blog.  It’s a matter of discipline.

3.  I will not buy any more books until I read the ones I have.  Nevermind.  That’s a total fallacy.  Won’t happen.  Next…

4.   I will lose weight.  I will eat better and exercise.  I will make healthier choices.  My children follow my lead and if I’m making poor health-related choices, they probably will as well.  If Jesus were here in the flesh to visit for a week, would I serve dinner on paper plates and make Him sleep on the floor?  Would I not clean the house from top to bottom before He got here?   Wouldn’t I want my home to look nice for Him?  Of course.  So why do I offer Him a flabby temple (i.e. – my body) in which to dwell.  He deserves better than that.

5.  I will spend less time learning about God and more time getting to know God.  I love learning about God, about the time in which Jesus lived, about Jewish traditions, about word studies of the Hebrew language…but I have a terrible habit of allowing that to consume more of my time than just hanging out with God.  I want to know more about HIM.  I want to learn how to listen more and talk less. 

I think I’ll stop there for now.  I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list in the new few days.  Happy New Year!

It was a holy night…

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks and new and cloudless morn

Fall on your knees, o hear the angel voices

O night divine, o night when Christ was born

O night, o holy night, o night divine…

Christ is the Lord, o praise His name forever!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

O Holy Night

Joseph and Mary: A Love Story?

I would like to begin this blog with a disclaimer:  I am a HOPELESS romantic.  I read entirely too many romance novels in my early adult life and therefore my idea of life and love may be terribly skewed.  My poor husband.  Good thing he’s a bit of a romantic himself or else he’d be in trouble! ha!!  So  anyway, forgive me if I tend to add a bit of romance/love to the mix but I can’t hardly help it. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear first.  This is my speculation according to what I’ve read, what the Bible says, and what I believe.  It’s not that I think that scripture doesn’t say enough…on the contrary.  Scripture tells us everything we need to know.  But I also think that the Scriptures were meant to be dug into and so if we can put flesh on these people’s bones and give them some humanity, they really seem to come alive off the pages.  (Incidentally, Beth Moore is really good at that – if you’ve never read any of her books, I would highly recommend her.)

Now, it is assumed that Mary was probably around 12 or 13 years old because during that time in history, that was about the age that young women would be betrothed to be married.  Being betrothed was sort of like being engaged, only it was as binding as actually being married.  During this time, the bride would continue to stay with her family while the bridegroom built a home for her, which was often an addition onto his family’s home.  Now in the movie my son and I watched the other night, it depicted Mary as not wanting to marry Joseph…that her dad betrothed her to Joseph because of financial necessity.  I’m not sure I really agree with that.  See, I remember how I was at 13 and boys were the bees knees.  That would have been about the time the “do you love me? check yes or no” notes would start going around the classroom and the girls would be writing their new “married” names on the pages of their notebooks.  Although Mary would have been considered almost a woman at 13, she was still 13 and I can’t help but think that she could have had starry-eyed dreams of love.

And Joseph.  I’m willing to bet that his betrothal to Mary wasn’t at all about finances.  I believe with all my heart that Joseph loved Mary and wanted her to be his wife.   (Parents would usually arranged marriages then, but it wasn’t uncommon for the young man to suggest a bride.)  And anyhow, I just can’t imagine God bringing two people together who would bring the Messiah into the world, have them marry and not have any love for each other.  I couldn’t find where it said specifically how long they’d been betrothed, but betrothals usually lasted for about year.  So, Mary and Joseph at this point could have been “a couple” for several months, and living in the same village, could have known each other for a while before the betrothal.  The Bible tells us in Luke that after the angel tells Mary of the Child she will bear, that she left pretty quickly…maybe the very next day?…and went to see Elizabeth and was there for about three months.  Now you know the old saying – “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – so I can imagine for every brick laid in the home he was building for Mary, that Joseph’s anticipation of her return grew.  What would she think of the house I built?  Would she like it?  Does she miss me?  Has her love for me grown cold in this time she’s been gone?  And I wonder too about Mary.  What could she have been thinking?  Will Joseph believe me when I tell him about the angel?  Will he still want to be my husband?  Will he still love me?  Will he think I’m fat in this dress?  Okay, well maybe not that last bit.

So in all his anticipation of Mary’s return, can you imagine how heartbroken Joseph would have been when faced with the reality that she was pregnant and the child certainly wasn’t his?  I would guess his emotions were running rampant…anger that she would betray him, humiliation at possibly having thought that she loved him, anguish that she would so flippantly toss his love aside for another.  He may have even been disgusted when she told him the story of the angel and wondered to himself if she thought he was that much of a fool to believe such a story.  The Bible says Joseph wasn’t willing to disgrace her publicly, that he would just divorce her quietly – that is until the angel of the Lord came for a visit (Matt. 1:19-25).  Can you imagine Joseph’s relief when the angel told him that everything Mary said was true?  That she really hadn’t been unfaithful?  That she hadn’t given her heart to another?  And then can you imagine the knot in his stomach when he realized that she’d been telling the truth…and he hadn’t believed her.  I’ll bet he couldn’t get his yarmulke on fast enough.  I can imagine him in an all out sprint to her house, pounding on the door, calling her name.  And when she appeared at the door, I can hear him rambling, out of breath, about the angel in his dream, asking for Mary’s forgiveness for not having believed her and praying to himself that she’d still agree to be his wife.  Can you feel the energy between the two of them as they realize that God had ordained this marriage, that God had an amazing purpose for them?  I like to think that at that moment, their hearts were bound together as one.  At that moment, the two individuals became one unit as they embarked on the journey of a lifetime.