Called to the Impossible
I haven’t forgotten that two months ago I started a conversation here about loving God—heart, soul, mind, and strength. But—with teaching and speaking and homeschooling and life—I’ve been finding it difficult to fit blogging into the mix.
This might also be a good time to mention that I’m also working on another book! I’m so excited—especially since, just last week, we decided on a working title. A Piercing Embrace: 7 Life-Changing Encounters with the Fierce Love of Christ. The manuscript is due to the publisher on January 15. Prayers—much appreciated! So once I get that baby delivered, I intend to return to that loving God discussion. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, though…
Last night I had the chance to speak at a women’s Christmas event in Waterloo, Iowa. As I’ve done a few times now, I spoke on the life of Mary, mother of Jesus. Every time I walk through her story, I am captivated anew with her commitment and conviction. So I thought I would share a few thoughts from that message today.
One morning just before Christmas, a couple of years ago, our family was enjoying one of those rare slow morning where no one had to be anywhere. Peter and I were lounging on our over-sized beanbag. Daryl and Amelia were playing on the floor. When suddenly, Amelia, who was 3 at the time, decided that she was going to be a superhero. She announced, “I’m Spider Girl!”
Then she doled out the rest of the parts: Daddy was Spiderman. Momma was Spiderwoman. And brother Daryl, who was then 6, was Bad Guy. Then she announced her fearsome intentions: “Spidergirl is going to take care of the Bad Guy!”
And she was all brave and powerful—for a few glorious seconds.
Then Bad Guy looked up from his cars and trucks long enough to catch wind of what was going on, and he thrust out an elbow to fend off Spidergirl. Apparently she hadn’t anticipated this sort of resistance because she stumbled backward into the bookshelf.
Deterred. But not defeated.
She returned with an even more powerful pose. “I’m Spidergirl!” she said. This time Bad Guy was also more prepared. He attacked with a mock karate chop, at which point Spidergirl came running in the direction of Spiderwoman and Spiderman, screaming, “Run away!” And she ran right past us and out the door.
A few minutes later, she returned from her bedroom, sucking her thumb and pulling her favorite blankie behind her. Bad Guy saw his opportunity and seized it. He stepped on that blankie—hard—and this was just too much for our heroine. Spidergirl collapsed on the floor in a torrent of tears.
Such is the short-lived adventure of a 3-year-old superhero.
But I haven’t forgotten her…probably because I see so much of myself in her. Don’t you?
Don’t we all want to do something big and important?
Don’t we all want to make a difference in our world?
Don’t we all set goals and make plans and steer our course accordingly?
Aren’t we all sometimes brave and powerful—at least in theory?
But when opposition comes—as it always does—don’t we all know what it feels like to falter? Don’t we all—at times—stumble back, or run away, or collapse on the floor in a torrent of tears?
Don’t we all have an inner Spidergirl?
My inner Spidergirl surfaces often. But I am most aware of her when I’m trying to scale the biggest of buildings. When the wall in front of me is sheer glass and several stories tall. When I muster all my strength and I try to believe that I have it in me to climb, but then I realize—sometimes of my own accord or sometimes because I find myself in a freefall—that God has called me to this task precisely because I don’t have what it takes.
And only He does.
This is one reason that I love the story of Mary so much.
Just as God has called so many men and women throughout Scripture—Noah and his family, Abraham and Sarah, David and Deborah—God calls Mary, as well, to the impossible.
He sends the angel Gabriel to deliver the crazy news that she was going to have a baby. She would call His name “Jesus.” He would be great, the Son of the Most High. God would give Him the throne of David. He would reign over Israel forever. And His kingdom would never end.
Of course, Mary recognizes that this proposition doesn’t make any logical sense. So she asks the angel, “How can this be since I have never known a man?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the angel explains. “And this baby will be the Son of God.”
Then Gabriel offers Mary a bit of evidence, some more miraculous news. Mary’s relative Elizabeth—old and barren—is pregnant as well. Six months along.
“For nothing,” the angel says as his parting word, “ nothing is impossible with God.”
How, then, does Mary respond?
I think I may have required a bit more proof. I may have asked for further confirmation. I might have thrown out a fleece or two. I might have called some friends for wise counsel. Or I might have been very spiritual and asked for the opportunity to take two weeks to pray about it. I might have responded like Moses responded to God’s call from the burning bush—with a series of excuses and reasons why I was not the right person for the job. Like Moses, I might have pled with God to call someone else to this task.
But not Mary. She responds with complete conviction and commitment.
“I am a bondslave of the Lord,” she says. “May it be to me as you have said.”
I don’t know what God is calling you to right now. I don’t know what your 2017 holds. I don’t know whether His current call on your life seems mundane or magnificent.
Maybe He’s calling you to move to a new place, a new job, a new school.
Maybe He’s calling you invest in a new project, or a new ministry, or a new friendship.
Maybe He’s calling you to stay in a difficult relationship or a challenging job. Maybe He’s calling you to redouble your efforts there.
Maybe He’s calling you to apologize or to forgive.
Maybe He’s calling you to face something in your past that He still wants to heal.
Maybe He’s calling you to navigate a particular experience that seems way beyond your capacity to cope.
Maybe He’s calling you to preach the Gospel where it isn’t popular, or to serve Him in some way beyond what you thought possible.
I don’t know what sort of Spiderperson you feel like these days. I don’t know if you’re feeling brave and self-confident, or if you feel like screaming and running out of the room. I don’t know if you want to cuddle your blankie or collapse on the floor in a torrent of tears.
I don’t know if, like Moses, you’re in the middle of a “But I…” debate with God.
I don’t know in what ways God wants you to humble yourself and depend on Him.
I don’t know how His glory will be made manifest in our lives in the coming year—but I believe that it will.
And I pray that our response to God’s call would be like Mary’s. “May it be to me as you have said.” Because He who calls us is more than able and with Him nothing is impossible.