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…

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splinters

Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought I’d read from Luke 1 this morning. My pastor had preached about Zechariah this past week and what had happened to him in the temple, so I thought I’d go back and read from there.

Zechariah was a priest and as it happened, his turn to lead the worship came up. His duty as High Priest that day was to go into the temple…way into the temple…and light incense in the inner courts as well as offer the atonement for the people that day. The Bible also mentions here that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were older, but didn’t have any children because Elizabeth was barren. As my pastor pointed out, to be childless for them was an awful thing. It was as if to say that the promises of God would stop for them because there were no children for them to pass that heritage on to. Not to mention Elizabeth’s feelings she must have had of unfulfillment, of not coming into her own as a woman because she had been unable to bear children.  But anyhow, that’s another story.

So here we have Zechariah in the temple doing his priestly duties when all of a sudden he turns and sees an angel standing right there.  And the angel proceeds to tell him that he and Elizabeth will have a child.  And Zechariah’s response to the angel is basically “how can I know this is so?”  And I have to think that Zechariah must have been so shocked at the sight of the angel that he just let what was in his mind fly without thinking about it.  I mean, seriously?  How can this be so?  Well I mean there is an ANGEL standing there telling you this and you don’t get blown away by just that one fact?  But then the angel tells you what you’ve been wanting to hear for who knows how long now and you ask “how could this be so?”  Man, what a foot-in-mouth moment.  Because see here’s what I think.

I think Zechariah was so caught off guard by the angel’s appearance that he didn’t have a chance to edit what he said before he said it.  Because he said for sure what was in his heart.  He spoke right out of the pain that he’d been suffering at not being called Daddy by anybody.  He spoke right out of the anger that he felt at seeing his precious wife agonize over never having felt the soft kick of an infant in her womb.  He spoke right out of the bitterness that he had probably tried many times to stuff back down when yet another couple announced the birth of a child.

There’s so much honesty in what he says.  How will I know?  I can imagine that immediately his heart leapt at the angel’s words, but then almost as quickly he reigned himself back in.  Words thoughtlessly uttered by a man who couldn’t bear to allow himself to hope.

In that moment, his pain and fear caused him to close his eyes to what was right in front of him.  And brokenness will do that to you sometimes.

I can only imagine all the things that Zechariah was thinking as he moved about inside the Inner Courts of the Holy Place.

Maybe he was thinking if he’d been chosen to do this High Priest thing sooner, he could have done it well enough to have pleased God and maybe then God would have answered his prayer.  Or maybe he was thinking about the son he would never have to be able to past the priesthood responsibilities onto.  Maybe he was concentrating so much on getting what he was doing right, that he wasn’t thinking about any of that at all.  Maybe that’s why the angel’s words were such a surprise.

Maybe he had come to a place of acceptance of his childless state and the angel just rolled up in there and ripped that wound right back open.

God does that sometimes.  We think we’ve arrived at a place of acceptance of something.  We decide that we will resign ourselves to being what we are instead of what we thought God had called us to be.

We settle.

And then we stop praying for the desire of our heart.

Because it’s just too hard.  It hurts too much to ask and ask and ask only to be disappointed over and over again.  It’s easier to just put that thing away and forget about it than to keep taking the beating over and over when we feel like God is ignoring our prayer.

And when we make that decision on our own to just suck it up and live with it, we move into a place of false acceptance and whether we realize it not, that splinter that we allowed to remain in the wound as it healed is still there.  The wound looks healed.  The scab may even be gone.  You may not even be able to tell it’s there just by looking because it’s in there so deep.  But the splinter is still in there and when we bump it just right, it still causes pain because it was never dealt with properly.  Because WE decided how to handle it, not God.

See I don’t think God would have wanted Zechariah to harbor that splinter.  And if it hadn’t have been in God’s plan for he and Elizabeth to have children, God would have healed that broken place in Zechariah’s heart before allowing that wound to heal over.  God had not yet filled that empty hole with healing or with a child, which tells me that He never meant for Zechariah to stop praying about it. He never meant for Zechariah to lose faith.

*insert Journey song here…Don’t stop be-lieeeev- in’ hold onto that fee-ee-ee-leh-eh-en…*

Okay so maybe the Journey song was too much, but you get the point.

If God hasn’t told you no, then the answer isn’t no.  And you can’t assume because He hasn’t given you a yes by actually answering your prayers yet, that His intention isn’t still to answer them.  Because His yes’s are yes’s and His no’s are no’s.  God’s not a trickster.  He doesn’t play games with your heart.  Your heart is precious to Him.  More than you know.  And He isn’t deaf.  He hears your pleas.  He isn’t blind.  He sees your tears.

So my question for you is, do you have a splinter somewhere that you’ve allowed to heal over?  Do you have something that you’ve decided God has said no to, when He really only just hasn’t said yes yet?

Allowing God to probe those wounds that haven’t healed properly can be a pretty painful endeavor.  It really causes us to have to put all our trust in Him to go back and reopen places that we’ve learned to deal with or have managed to close ourselves off from.  But I assure you that He’s worthy of that trust.

He’s a good Doctor.  He heals all wounds…and He heals them well, clean and splinter-free.