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Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The angel's odd greeting alarmed Mary. For one thing, his was a greeting normally reserved for girls of a more noble background than her own. Rich girls were the favored ones, not poor girls from poor, working-class towns like Nazareth. Hers was not one of the tony sections of Galilee. Nazareth was a solidly working-class, unremarkable village. It was located in lower Galilee, if that tells you anything. So unremarkable were Nazareth and its inhabitants in the eyes of others throughout Galilee that upon hearing of the prophetic gifts of one Jesus from Nazareth, Nathanael, who hailed from a flossier section of town, smugly replied, "What good can come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). Fortunately, Jesus would learn from his mother not to be deterred by what others thought of his hometown. Mary would live out her whole life in Nazareth and would come to discover for herself that just because your background is humble doesn't mean that your future is limited. Who would have imagined an angel from heaven appearing to a poor, unsophisticated young girl from the back roads of Nazareth with an assignment from God? Mary grew up never expecting the sort of compliment paid to her that day by the angel Gabriel; afterward, however, she knew better than to ever again question God's choice.
There's no denying that Gabriel's greeting startled Mary. But hearing herself addressed directly made Mary draw back in fear even more. "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30). Imagine an angel speaking directly to a woman! Everyone knew that angels didn't communicate directly to women. But this one did. What's more, he came with news that should more properly have been conveyed to Joseph, her husband-to-be. This caused Mary more alarm. Anything affecting a woman's reputation as a bride-to-be, or anything threatening her upcoming marriage, by custom should be directed to her father or husband-to-be. Their honor as her guardians was on the line. What's more, women were not addressed directly without the consent of their fathers, husbands, or male guardians. (A few verses earlier, an angel visited Zechariahs, not Elizabeth, with joyous news of a son being on the way.) Mary was shaken by what was happening. But, she was also intrigued.
Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God, the angel said. "Uh-oh. Is this good news or bad news?" It's supposed to be a compliment, but it also feels like something else you have to live up to. Divinely favored. Hmmmph. It feels like you're about to be asked to do something that's going to take a lifetime to live up to. Something else added to the long list of things you already have to do. Another impossibility put upon you. Whatever plans you had for your life have been shot to pieces. No, God. Not now. Not here. Why now? Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
At the same time, it's intriguing and flattering to think that someone sees something special in you. You're tempted to question their judgment and motive. After all, you've lived your whole life around people who expected very little from your life. And let's face it, your own dreams for yourself have been rather small and conventional as well. But now someone comes along with a different forecast of your future. Says your Gabriel, "Have you ever thought about the possibility that you're more gifted than you know? You've got more potential than you suspect? You're more blessed than you think?" For example, a teacher admires your speaking and thinking skills in class and asks whether you've given any thought to applying to law school. You're speechless. It might just be that your teacher was your Gabriel. A coworker admires your competence on a project and suggests that you apply for the job that's just been posted, which pays more and would make better use of your talents. You're floored. Could that be your Gabriel? What is your reaction supposed to be? Whatever you do, don't dismiss their remarks. Hear them out. Listen for God. Search your own soul. Maybe theirs are the voices of Gabriel sent to wake you up to your own potential.
Mary could have just said no. That's certainly what you and I would have said had an angel intercepted us with harrowing news that God had decided to interrupt our best-laid plans and set us on some ridiculous course. She could have thought, I have better things to do with my life. She might have said to Gabriel, "No- I can't do this. My family would never accept this; you'd better find someone else to do this." Mary could have said no, and would have been in good company if she had. Moses told God, "I'm not equipped to do the job." Isaiah confessed, "I'm not good enough." Jeremiah responded, "I'm much too young." Don't we tell teenagers to just say no? But Mary didn't refuse. For once in Scripture, someone, thankfully a woman, says it right the first time. She says instead, "Let it be." How many times have we said no, wanted to say no, came close to saying no, did say no to an invitation based solely on the fact that we didn't want to be inconvenienced, ridiculed, or burdened? Give the job to someone else. Mary had her own dreams of what her future with Joseph would be like. Bringing a baby into the marriage was not one of them. Growing up so quickly and having her life changed so radically were not how she imagined her new future. But look at what Mary would have missed had she responded negatively. Besides missing the honor of being the mother of God's son, she would have missed the chance to discover new things about herself. Every time you resist God's invitation to do something new, you miss God's opportunity for you to be renewed.
So what does it mean to be favored by God? Does it mean you're different from other women, better than other women, more blessed and chosen than other women? Absolutely not. It means that you, like Mary, have God's undivided attention. You always have had God's attention. But this time you know it in ways you've never known before. You notice now that your plans have become folded and kneaded into God's plan for you. "You have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30) means that your season has come, your season to move out and step up to your potential and purpose has arrived. Your plans for yourself have not been tossed out. The favor of God now makes them possible, doable, achievable. You are now becoming ready from within. A new self is emerging. You are outgrowing the old ways. Before all attention has been on what's taking place on the outside. Your new move. Getting that child off to college. The divorce. The wedding. The promotion. The new weight loss. The new boyfriend. Now it's time to turn your attention to what's taking place inside you. Stop. Pray. Pay attention. Listen. Don't listen with your ears, listen with your heart. What are you feeling? Admit that you're both afraid and excited. What have you been wanting to do all your life but were too afraid to try? Although things have begun to swirl around you and you feel completely out of control, you can rest assured that you're on the right track, because ultimately it will all come together to your greater good. Step in the whirlwind, my sister.
O Lord, even though I cannot see my way, still I hear your voice calling me in the whirlwind. Things are falling apart and coming together at the same time. Fear and calm overtake me. Feelings of unworthiness and divine boldness vacillate within. But I hear you beckoning me, telling me to get up, reach out, look up, step out. I hear, and I obey.
Excerpted from Showing Mary by Renita J. Weems Copyright © 2002 by Renita J. Weems. Excerpted by permission.
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|The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 1 Verses 26-56||xi|
|"Greetings, You Have Found Favor"||9|
|Ready from Within||15|
|God Is with You||21|
|"To a Girl Named Mary"||29|
|What's So Great about Being a Virgin?||41|
|"Psssst ... You're Pregnant"||54|
|I Have Been Here Before||66|
|"Let It Be Done According to Your Word"||71|
|Sex and Sleep Dust||97|
|Here Comes the Bride||108|
|My Mother, My Self||117|
|Shedding the Eternal Girl||126|
|"But [She] Had No Children"||141|
|Mary and Red Shoes||159|
|Surprised by Passion||178|
|Getting into the Dance||188|
Posted October 18, 2002
Many overlook the struggle of Mary the mother of our Lord. Dr. Weems makes us aware of the seemingly scandalous conditions under which Jesus was born. However, she shows us that Mary did not have to bear these burdens alone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2002
I have only finished a few chapters, and my life has been touched. Through the life of Mary, Dr. Weems breaks it down-uses Biblical teaching and real-life applications to show us how to become the virtuous women were are meant to be.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 25, 2008
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Posted April 29, 2010
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Posted January 9, 2012
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