Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Surprise in the Familiar

Sometimes, I will reread a passage in a book or I will rewatch a movie, and it will resonate with me in a completely new way. I'm sure you know this feeling - an unexpected "ah-ha" in a familiar place that can take your breath away. 

Like this week when I was rewatching The Holiday, I had to catch my breath as Arthur made it up the stairs alone. Why? As I watched my 93-year-old grandmother suffering from Parkinson's over Thanksgiving, I saw her determination as she slowly steered her fork towards her mouth, not wanting anyone to notice the effort it took not to spill on her holiday attire and, of course, never retreating to the idea of having someone else feed her. While rewatching The Holiday, Arthur's determination to take on those 4 stairs felt so real and so Everest-like in the context of my own life, I was teary.

In a similar way, I was knocked over this morning by the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1. Yeah, yeah. It's always the same. They're both pregnant with super babies - one, John the Baptist, and two, JESUS. I don't mean to be sacrilegious here, but woah, those are power pregnancies. 

Anyways, I guess that's how I always thought of it. Super women following amazing callings. But this morning, I thought about this pregnant woman traveling to see her cousin for real. I thought about Mary...

A woman who everyone believes cheated on her fiance, a woman who's probably sick in her first trimester, and a woman who knows she has God on her side but who is probably feeling pretty lonely. A woman probably desperate for a friend.

And then, there's Elizabeth. Elizabeth's husband is, well, mute at this point, so that means no encouragement, no conversation, no way of really explaining this whole late-in-life pregnancy thing. Luke 1 also says she hid herself for 5 months. Not to mention, before she was pregnant, they had been dealing with years of infertility. God is doing really cool, wonderful things in their lives, but they are not necessarily easy things, and they're certainly not things I would want to be doing alone. 

Now, I am not a theologian by any means, so I'm humbly processing what I read, but it seems to me that God does this really neat thing where He puts these two women together, experiencing really hard, really different but similar things. We know that the Angel tips Mary off about Elizabeth's situation. Then, the minute Mary enters the house, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and she starts not only worshiping God, but also points out the blessings in this crazy situation. And then what do they do? They start singing! Okay, so you're probably like, yeah there's nothing new for me about this story, but I guess this morning I cannot get over the fact that God KNEW how tough their circumstances would be and gave them each other's companionship.

COMMUNITY. It is a deal-breaker. 

Both of these women have recently had experiences with Angels, both of these women are following hard after the Lord's call on their lives, but the gift of each other's company is still a major encouragement. God uses Elizabeth as an instrument of His blessing and grace the moment Mary walks in the door, and having those in our lives that can help us understand what God is doing and point out His goodness is important and awesome. Gosh, the idea is just so simple, and yet so great. Think back to the garden - the only thing "not good" about God's creation before the fall was that Adam was alone. And in this instance, Mary probably can't live with Joseph yet, and she's probably been rejected by most people. So, where does she go in haste? The Lord gives her a confidant in her cousin. Heck, she ends up living with Elizabeth for a whole stinkin' trimester. 

Maybe I'm having this ah-ha because of where I am in my life today... Walking with lots of friends through hard stuff, some of that stuff being pregnancies and infertility. Or maybe it's because I'm writing this on the eve of my first year in Rome, GA, and I really do feel like I've have been dropped into an incredible community of people who have made following God's call to live here that much more enjoyable. 

Last Sunday, we had a Christmas party at our house, and friends crowded around our piano to sing. We sang everything from songs about kissing under mistletoe to the good news of Christmas. But as I sat on the piano bench basically shouting the lyrics to familiar tunes, I felt so encouraged to be surrounded by this chorus of voices, evidence of people doing every day life with us. Our singing wasn't the magificat or anything, but reading about Mary and Elizabeth this morning made me acutely aware of the power of our community in our lives. 

Anyways, just had to process these thoughts in writing this morning. As you reread the good news of Christmas this year, I hope you too have a mind-blowing moment with this familiar story. Merry Christmas.


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