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Mary was called to be the mother of Jesus. I don’t think I have to try and describe what a big deal that is; I think we can all agree that was quite the role to be asked to play.
Her response is well-known; it was perfect.
Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
But why was it so perfect? She definitely accepted the Lord’s will for her, but I think there is more to it. I think we can learn precisely how we should approach life from that simple statement.
When you receive a responsibility, calling, prompting, or even your life-purpose from the Lord, it is very easy to approach it incorrectly. There is a fine line for your heart to walk if you really want to access the Lord’s power. Sway too much to one side (because we’ll all sway a bit), and the road gets much bumpier.
She could have been proud
I don’t know if this particular section applies to everyone, but I know it applies to plenty of people. It has applied to me before.
Mary was obviously not the kind of woman who congratulated herself for being worthy enough to bear the Son of God. We can further explore Mary’s feelings when she speaks to Elisabeth.
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
There have been plenty of times when people have been falsely humble. They have said things similar to Mary’s phrase, “the low estate,” but not meant it in their hearts. But if you keep reading, it gives us further insight into Mary’s mind. As she looked forward to the future of mankind, she did not see glorious praises for who she was. She didn’t get excited that the whole world would be applauding her courage. In her mind, the world would exclaim, “Look at how the Lord blessed her.”
Applauding yourself for receiving a specific responsibility indicates ignorance. It simply means you have not yet learned that the Lord likes to do His own work, and He also likes to receive credit for it. He likes to perform it through us because He wants us to grow, but let’s be real…He is the one pulling the weight.
The world holds a hierarchy in society, and this hierarchy places the “best” people at the top. I think many of us subconsciously buy into this concept, and many of us apply it to the kingdom of God on earth. We mistakenly believe that the most righteous are at the “top.” However, that’s not how the kingdom of God works. Seeking something the Lord doesn’t want you to have (including leadership callings, miraculous amounts of converts, and glamorous responsibilities) isn’t going to serve you. The Lord knows precisely what you need. He knows what callings you need. He knows how you should spend your time. He knows which of your brothers and sisters needs specific callings. The kingdom of God is a needs-based program, not a reward system.
Is it wrong to desire a calling? No. I’ve literally asked for specific callings before; I love teaching the youth and working with the missionaries. There is nothing wrong with being excited when you get a calling you really like. What’s wrong is the desire for glory. What’s wrong is that tempting, swelling feeling of pride that you were called to serve in a visible leadership position. There are a lot of reasons the Lord places certain people in specific places; it’s not necessarily because you’re that great or righteous.
What’s also wrong is getting angry or annoyed if the Lord thinks you need a different calling. It’s wrong to think you’re above a calling. And when I say wrong, I mean: You’re only hurting yourself because the Lord knows best.
She could have been terrified
There is no record that the angel helped Mary understand what was going to be happening. He didn’t explain the mechanics. He didn’t explain what she should do as her belly grew even though she wasn’t married yet. He didn’t tell her whether Joseph would still accept her. She likely knew some of the prophecies regarding the Messiah, and she knew that her Son would suffer. Maybe she wondered if she could really do it, if she could be good enough to raise the Son of God.
In hindsight, we all understand the significance of what Mary gave to the world when she had her Son. We praise her for the work she accomplished, for the person she was in order to be prepared to nurture the Son of God. But if we had been placed in that present moment, I don’t know how many people would actually be calling themselves blessed to have that laid on their shoulders. Imagine the Lord sending an angel to you. This angel gives you a responsibility that could potentially get you thrown out of your family and community. It would bring you great pain one day. It would bring an immense amount of pressure. Would we have the faith to rejoice in the Lord’s will?
When I think about some of my reactions to callings and responsibilities, something inside me wonders if I would have given the reaction that Mary gave. My reactions vary depending on the responsibility that’s given to me, but I would be dishonest if I said that all of my feelings towards my responsibilities were as humble as Mary’s. There are times when I experience excitement and gratitude, but there are also times when I experience more negative emotions. I wonder if I’m capable. I wonder if all my work is silly and useless to any other person. I wonder about how I could possibly make the time to do it. I feel sad about what I might have to sacrifice in order to make the work a reality.
Could you imagine if Mary had felt that way about carrying the Savior of the world?
She just accepted
So Mary’s response was perfect. She literally just said, “Here I am. Whatever the Lord wants.”
This indicated her belief in God. She knew that He knew more than her. She knew that He was aware of everything going on and that His decisions were wisest.
It indicated that she knew God would help her. Whatever obstacles might come her way, God could walk her through it. It was just as the angel said:
Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And this is precisely how we should respond when the Lord speaks.
Let us remember that He doesn’t always speak. Sometimes He wants us to make our own decisions. Sometimes the decisions don’t necessarily matter. Sometimes He wants us to take responsibility for who we become.
But sometimes He speaks. And when He does choose to speak, we need to be ready to accept.
We can develop that accepting attitude by drawing closer to Him. When you have a relationship with Him, His will is much easier to accept. It is much easier to choose faith and believe that there are reasons. When you hit an obstacle, it becomes much easier to choose faith. We know He’s the expert and so it’s not even a question as to whether we’re going to go with His idea.
If you are currently facing a responsibility and you recognize that you’re swaying too hard in either direction, the answer is to draw closer to Him. You don’t have to force humility when you have a testimony of reality.
My own experience with this
It took me a while to simply become okay with what the Lord wanted for me. It took me a while to realize that my longings for “more” were not necessarily righteous longings, and it took me even longer to figure out how to get rid of those feelings.
I am still working to get rid of them, but there was one experience that really propelled me in a good direction. It was simple. Nothing showy. I was simply listening to conference. It was during the youth speakers in April 2020. I wanted so badly to give more because I wanted to believe that I was good. I wanted the Lord to use me more because in my limited perspective, I believed it would help me feel like He was proud of me.
Rather than giving me more responsibilities to make me feel better for a hot second (because pride is never satisfied), the Lord simply let me know what I mean to Him. It was experiencing that kind of love that changed me. I felt His love; I no longer needed outward expressions of His pride in me. I was no longer scared of what I could or could not accomplish on my own; I knew He was there.
If you’re trying to be more like Mary, if you’re trying to spontaneously feel more like Mary, draw closer to the Savior.
He loves you. He will give you exactly what you need because He loves you. He will walk you through every obstacle that comes along with what you need.