Worked Out

I don’t always cry at weddings. In fact, if the tears don’t come when the groom is watching his bride come down the aisle, it’s safe to assume my eyes will be dry the whole day through.

This last wedding, though, hit me at the most unexpected of times.

As I slipped into the reception hall, I saw a friend I had not seen in many years. Sue is a saint of the grandmotherly variety. Her face lit up upon seeing me and she quickly offered me the seat next to her. I, of course, could not refuse.

When she started inquiring about my life, I told her nothing I would not tell another acquaintance. The conversation merely brushed across the surface of my life and spoke nothing of the struggle within my soul. Perhaps that is why I was so surprised when, after I had returned from a much-needed moment of baby snuggling time, Sue picked the conversation back up in the most curious of places.

“I know you already know this,” she said, “but I feel impressed to tell you that God has your life worked out.”

That’s when the tears came, burning beneath the surface of my eyes. I blinked them back (so technically I still did not cry at that wedding), but they slipped into my heart alongside the conviction Sue’s words brought.

God may have my life worked out, but I’m not sure that I knew that. Or, at the very least, I’m not sure that I believed that. Because a quick look back on the last three years certainly suggested otherwise.

I have felt lost. I have felt abandoned. I have felt the furthest thing from worked out.

And yet… I felt the sting of truth in those words.

“God has your life worked out.”

I realize that I have been working in my own strength to pick up the pieces and sort this puzzle out. I’ve grown tired of waiting and elected to take matters into my own hands. And oh what a mess I have managed to make.

But here is the truth I have long forgotten how to claim: God has my life worked out.

He has not given up somewhere in the middle (as I often have). He is not sitting up in heaven debating hitting the backspace key on the last few chapters of my life (as I often wish that I could). He knows how this ends. He has it worked out. I am not floundering all alone in the dark.

Tomorrow I leave for Africa. The story of my getting there is quite the soap opera. It was not my first attempt to visit this continent. Every single mishap along the way has seemingly been in direct opposition of my going. I had my doubts right up until the visa actually arrived on my doorstep (and that hasn’t even been the end of my struggles). To be honest, I have my doubts about traveling tomorrow because when I fly everything seems to go wrong.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that God has my life worked out because I’m afraid it doesn’t look like the life I would choose for myself. Because sometimes He closes doors on opportunities I thought were perfect. Because sometimes He strands me in Ohio when I wanted the world.

But when it’s time, He throws those doors wide open so that I can walk through. And He tells me He had it worked out a year and a half ago when my plans fell through. Because this—chaotic and unnerving as it has been—is better than the trip I tried to line up for myself.

I’ve had my doubts… So many doubts…

But all along God had my life worked out.

Farewell for a couple of weeks, my friends. I’ll see you in April!

Mary’s Extraordinary Faith

Everyone has their own take on the nativity story. Mine has changed in the last week or so. I think I’ve always tried so hard to picture Mary as an ordinary girl that I overlooked the depth of her extraordinary faith.

I always imagined that Mary was too wonder-struck to say anything but yes. I figured that there wasn’t much room for logic in the midst of her awe, and imagined that it was only after the celestial being, mysterious message, and rush of excitement departed that reality set in. I pictured Mary instantly going from, “Wow!” to, “Oh snap, how am I going to explain this to my father?”

But then one of my co-workers got me thinking about some other Biblical heroes who weren’t quite as willing as Mary. Think about it:

When Moses heard his calling in the burning bush, he exhausted every excuse he could conjure up.

When Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh, he ran as far as he could in the other direction.

When Gideon was told he would lead his people to freedom, he asked for sign after sign after sign.

The Bible records at least three other cases of miraculous childbirths in which all of the parents had their doubts. They all wanted proof – a sign. Sarah even laughed out loud at the very idea of giving birth to a son (and she was a married woman, so it makes the miracle that much less miraculous than the one Mary was presented with).

Here I imagined that Mary simply didn’t consider the cost of her obedience when faced with the miraculous, but in reality, she was just like all these other doubters. Though she couldn’t fully understand the magnitude of what her obedience would cost her, she could at least imagine some of the challenges she would face – the ridicule, the gossip. Still, Mary didn’t make excuses. She didn’t ask for a sign. She posed only one question: “How?” And when she was assured that all things are possible with God, she said simply, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

That’s how extraordinary Mary’s faith was.

I think the way I once envisioned Mary was similar to what my response might have been. I might have said yes in a wonder-struck moment and been flooded with doubts once the angel disappeared. That’s why God chose Mary instead of me. Not that Mary didn’t have her doubts. I’m sure the shepherds’ words weren’t the only things she “pondered in her heart.” And there’s Biblical proof that she didn’t always “get it,” but she walked forth in obedience regardless of her understanding (or lack thereof).

Today I pray for faith like Mary’s. When I feel God call me toward the seemingly miraculous things of life, I pray that my answer will simply be: “Let it be to me according to Your word.”