We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.
During the Advent season, I was reading Luke’s account again of the virgin birth. I always love to stop and think about the fact that Elizabeth would have been considered too old and Mary would have been considered too young. And that either pregnancy would have been a scandal of its own variety, but somehow the narrative of God’s incarnation has both of them carrying children at the same time. What a beautiful and bizarre first meeting they must have had after the angel visited Mary. As I was reading it this time, I saw a new line that caught my eye. This is what Elizabeth says to Mary, right before the Magnificat:
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!
And I just stopped. What a line of praise and trust and faith. Two women, surprised to find themselves first-time expectant mothers, staring incredulously at God’s faithfulness in awe. Elizabeth lifting up Mary’s faith as a blessing. And all this while the only adult man in the story has been recently struck mute for his unbelief (sorry, Zechariah). Isn’t this a bit of a crazy story, when you stop to think about it? Considering the cultural norms and gender roles of the day, the unexpected pregnancy for both women, and the Spirit-led responsiveness of one child in utero…wow. God writes so many unexpected stories…and stories whose encouragement transcends time:
God sees women who have been quietly believing and trusting His promises to be fulfilled.
Mary and Elizabeth weren’t doing things that looked amazing, special or “paradigm-shifting” to anyone around them. They were living faithful lives – one as a married woman who had perhaps grown used to the name of barren, and one as a young, single woman found to be pregnant before marriage. And yet God plucks these women out of their lives and sets them in the very beginning of the story of the Incarnation. And I would like to think that years of quiet belief enabled both of them to be ready to respond when God called. A woman who, like Mary, could then embrace the unforeseen shape of God’s call on her life: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In order to believe, I need to keep on remembering his promises to me.
I always think of a sermon I heard on Hebrews 12:2 (…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…) which emphasized that the verb for “looking to” at the beginning of verse has the sense of continually turning, or to keep on looking. So true. We forget so quickly. I can’t vaguely think about “Oh, God is faithful and He said some stuff about that.” I have to turn the eyes of my heart toward His word and look deeply at His promises. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is no easy feat for me…I quickly switch back into my selfish, self-reliance mode and I’d stay there, were it not for God’s faithfulness in pulling my heart back to Him.
We can encourage the faith of others.
One of my favorite things about this passage was a note from a commentary:
Those that have experienced the performance of God’s promises themselves should encourage others to hope that he will be as good as his word to them also: ‘I will tell you what God has done for my soul.’
As women who are praying together to see impossible things become possible, I sometimes forget that this is some of our calling. A call to be women who identify and encourage faith in others. To say “I see faith growing in you!” To celebrate God’s faithfulness with other women in whatever particular shape it shows up. And also to say “God is faithful” and tell our own stories. Even the stories with question marks, with grief, with unfinished endings, with many years of waiting…because, in the end, we are women who have seen the Lord be faithful in what circumstances we find ourselves. And we are trusting on His promises for the unforeseen road we’re walking. In the end, as the angel told Mary, we’re trusting the God who sees and acts in the realm of the impossible:
“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.“
Praying with you and for you,