Miracles, Mary, Perceptions, Getting Scared, and God's Plan for our Lives

Seeing an angel appear at the foot of my bed and speak to me would be terrifying. I’m a little paranoid and am scared to death of certain things. This year, while mowing, I encountered a garter snake and screamed like a grown man. I was riding my mower, noticed a snake crawling beside me, and screamed at the top of my lungs. I didn’t even know that I was scared of snakes, but I guess I am.

During my freshman year of college, I would go to bed before my roommate, Josh. He would stay up and watch Letterman, Conan O’Brien, or work on homework. I was usually in bed by 11. He had a tendency to leave the door unlocked. One night I woke up from someone tapping me on the shoulder. I rolled over, expecting it to be Josh, and looked to see what he wanted. What I saw was not Josh. Instead, I encountered a big, giant, scary mask staring me in the face and was greeted by a loud, “Boo!” I sat up in my bed and screamed at the top of my lungs. That night the two big 6’10” linemen - that’s the big guy position in football for those who don’t follow football – decided to sneak into all the unlocked rooms and scare people. As I was laying there in my bed, trying to calm my heart beat down, I could hear screams of fellow students previously asleep behind unlocked doors echo down the hallway.

Apparently Jesus’ mother Mary had a similar reaction to Gabriel, for Gabriel’s initial response to Mary was, “Do not be afraid.” Encountering an unexpected person in what is supposed to be a safe place would cause some fear. But Gabriel was there, not to terrify her, but to tell her that she had found favor with God and would be blessed by him.

So what was the big blessing. You know it. Mary, being a virgin who was engaged, would become pregnant. Imagine the conversation between Joseph and Mary. “So Mary, you say that you are pregnant from the Holy Spirit? Sure.” As we see in the book of Matthew, he was going to divorce her over her pregnancy. It took an angel of the Lord to convince him not to. Now, he was left to decide whether Mary had some very good friends talented in special effects or whether the message from the angel was the real thing.

A lot of times, God’s blessings can be viewed either positively or negatively. Here was Mary, pregnant and a virgin. If she had a negative outlook on life, she would have said, “I can’t believe this. It ruins my wedding night. I was saving myself from Joseph, now he won’t even believe me that I am pregnant because I found favor with God. What kind of blessing is this anyway? Now, all my neighbors and friends will also think I’m a slut.” Even after Joseph received the message from an angel, I am sure the neighbors and friends still thought Mary was unfaithful. Who, in their right mind, would believe that God impregnated a woman?

But Mary did. Joseph did. Miracles are seldom seen by others as being miraculous, but those who experience them know what they are. We can sit around, be Mr. or Mrs. Negativity, and condemn all of the great miracles people believe that God has done in their lives. We can say miracles are no longer done because we don’t experience them, but that would be allowing our experience to speak rather than Scripture. A respected professor and minister in the non-instrumental churches of Christ made a comment to me this year: “We have made the mistake of saying miracles were gone with Apostles.” I know Lindsay and I have experienced tremendous blessings from God. The same with the church we are part of. People outside of God would just say that they were coincidences. I am baffled by how many “coincidences” Christians, who are willing to give their lives over to God, experience.

Jesus would be the result of Mary's sacrifice; a sacrifice she would view as a blessing. The king of the long-awaited Kingdom of God would finally come. The Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for and that the world needed. And this blessing would come through Mary, a woman who had her world rocked. She was pregnant before being married, Jesus' arrival would not be painless, and raising him would change her life. But in the process, her sacrificing her own rights allowed the world to be changed. That is an essential characteristic of those who are used by God; they have to be willing to be a sacrifice.

I think Mary’s story tells it best. She sacrificed her plans for her future for the sake of God’s plan for her. When we encounter God and allow him to direct our lives, that is usually what happens. We cannot go on living the way we have always lived if we want to be who God wants us to be. And that is true whether we have been following God our whole life or are just starting to take our first steps. God’s plans will crush our own plans, but that’s okay. When we allow that to happen, our lives, and our world is a better place. We have to realize that. God’s plan for our life is better than our own.