Selfish Obedience

There’s something devastatingly beautiful about being outside in the autumn. Even with the threat of winter being just around the corner, it’s simple irreplaceable. It must be taken into the depths of your soul. The autumn air is short and perfect. I do what I can to enjoy it. The other day I was raking leaves at my parents, they are blessed with some great shade trees which transform into beauty carpet-makers this time of year. As I was piling the leaves in the chilly air, a UPS truck passed by and I felt inclined to hum Christmas songs. I wondered if it’s a bit early for that?

This week I started reading the book of Luke (from the Bible) and it’s impossible not to think of Christmas while reading those first couple of chapter.  It always seems so suspenseful to me, and knowing what happens next doesn’t always help. There’s these crazy little details about Mary’s life that are just put out there for the reader without any background, and they make me wonder about the situations at hand. Mary is engaged (in modern terms) but God tells her she’s going to be raising a baby boy in 9 months, by the miraculous working of God and not by man’s donation. And she just agrees to whatever God wills …which is probably what we’d call crazy. But Mary was also greeted by the angel (who brought this news) “as favored on of the Lord” or “blessed of all woman” depending on your reading translation. So I guess if you’re already favored of the LORD than you probably shouldn’t become non-favored by questioning at this point, but… What about would her fiancé say?

Maybe Mary thought about that afterwards, because she went immediately to her cousin Elizabeth (who is a whole another amazing story), until Elizabeth delivered her baby. Then a few months later…. Mary’s fiancé gets the surprise of his life, a pregnant Mary comes back home. The story goes on with God stepping in for Mary’s sake and speaking with her fiancé  about these curious circumstances. Yet I get stuck at is place in between the words. Or as I heard someone else phrase it, I get stuck mesmerized in the space between the period and the first letter of the next word of the new sentence.

What’s it like to agree to raising a baby boy before you’re married, then before you tell anyone about this news your cousin personally greets you with tidings of joy, initiativly knowing your secret, and this a situation which by all other means looks bad. I imagine Mary staying with Elizabeth her cousin and Zercheriah (Elizabeth’s husband) and talking daily about what God is doing and has done for each of them. I imagine them all encouraging one another. I imagine Elizabeth and Mary helping each other as much as possible like best friends would do, and each helping the other to prepare for their soon coming travail.

But when Mary left that place to return home… things were surely different for Mary, socially at the very least. Mary would have been gone just long enough that when she came back home a little baby bump would be emerging. Mary would have come back just in time to no longer keep the secret to herself. What an agonizing situation it must have been to go from encouragement, importance, helpful, and joy into a place where your distraught fiancé is trying to figure out a tackful way to say he’s not going to marry a pregant woman.

Of course God intervened and spoke with Joseph, which kept all things on track, but what must it have been like for the next 6months between Mary and Joseph? Was Joseph just as able to accept God’s words and let things be? Did he have a “anything else I need to know” attitude? We’re they leary of one another? Was a time to rebuild trust? Were they able to have joy knowing God was doing something big and they we’re in the midst of it?

Did Mary often wonder if she should have gone about telling her fiancé in a different way? Did Mary realize that she could no longer just keep her spiritual realities to herself, but now need to merge her insight with Joseph’s tender heart and keep him in the loop?  I’m not sure I could imagine what happened, but being married myself, I wonder a lot of questions about this time. It seems like as the story goes on Mary, Joseph, and God start working together as a great team.

Too much of Christianity today believes that the man is the “head” or “leader” or “dictator” of the marriage relationship, but apparently God isn’t concerned about what man believes. When God sent his anointed Messiah, he told Mary first and for most. Then God told Elizabeth who probably told her husband Zechariah, and then Joseph later down the line. And don’t get me wrong, God loved and chose Joseph just as much as Mary, that is made evident throughout the rest of the “Christmas” story.  These are some very Godly people, everyone of them.

So what happens when God comes into a couple’s life to do some extraordinary things, but only tells one of them?  And what if that one agrees for both them in that moment it’s revealed, before consulting the other? Is this a selfish obedience?

What about when it gets bigger? What if believe that God is calling my husband and I to some very little but important work, and from that belief we’ve taken some big (or little, imo) steps of faith, which might make it so this Christmas there is no money for gifts… for anyone?  Was that selfish of me to not look down the road no have a backup plan or cutoff date? I mean how long can a person or a couple live on faith? 6months? A year? 14months? I don’t know. They’re just questions that I imagine exist all around us.

I ask myself often, how much are we living by faith in obedience? Or how much are we being foolish with a God who’s having mercy on our childishness?  If we thought more of others would we have chosen a different path? Is our “obedience” selfish? Is believing in something that’s not yet seen as important, or more important, than dealing well with what’s given now?   What happens when you believe in a Living God who doesn’t do things in the same order as man nor by the same tactics? Is there sufficient grace for those who want to live by faith, even unto the adventure which brings man’s ways/order/tactics to death?

Any which way it happens, I believe that God is Just enough to get us on and keep us in the right track, however that needs to been done. We maybe facing failure, but we don’t flinch. God is our judge. There’s nothing as reassuring as God’s glory, and this glory only comes after the LORD has judged the hearts of his people.  So whether God finds us worthy and blesses to His entrusted mission, or whether God finally lets everything crash down, we will be set free by God’s righteous judgement.

Pray for us, and remember a God who has plans so much greater than our own imaginations.

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