If ever there was an inconvenient pregnancy, it was Mary of Nazareth’s. Her pregnancy was miraculous, but it also put her in a tenuous situation. As a virgin engaged to be married — worse case scenario — Mary could have been stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Who on earth would actually believe her story?
There are so many details I wonder about. What did her parents say? When she went away to visit Elizabeth for three months and came back starting to show, how did she deal with the gossip? Did she remain silent or did she share the angel’s message? Was she laughed at and ridiculed? After all, even her betrothed, Joseph didn’t believe her story at first.
I wish I knew. But what I do know is that Mary did not bring up these potential challenges and fears to the angel who visited her that miraculous day, although they must have come crashing into her mind the minute the angel told her she’d conceive a child.
What she did blurt out was, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
After receiving Gabriel’s answer, she responds with incredible humility, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
John MacArthur writes about Mary’s response in his book, Twelve Extraordinary Women:
There’s no evidence that Mary ever brooded over the effects her pregnancy would have on her reputation. She instantly, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will without further doubt or question. She could hardly have had a more godly response to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. It demonstrated that she was a young woman of mature faith and one who was a worshiper of the true God.
How I long to respond to the inconveniences in my life like Mary. I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.
Motherhood is all about inconvenience. The physical discomfort of a swelling body is just the beginning. Then comes the intensity of labor followed by midnight feedings. The reality that one’s life really isn’t one’s own anymore. Of course, joy is experienced in every one of those situations, but sometimes, it’s also just plain inconvenient.
Even the smallest inconvenience can sometimes send me for a tailspin. In the midst of writing this very article, my twin three-year-old boys woke up much earlier than usual from their naps, crying. My natural tendency is not to be happy to see them when interrupted like that. This is my time, after all. They’re invading it. They’re inconvenient. My mother’s heart does not naturally desire to sacrifice for them. I don’t want to give up the time that I thought was allotted to me.
For Mary, the high honor of being the mother of Jesus came with inconveniences that would culminate in great suffering. Gien Karssen, author of Her Name is Woman, puts it this way: “She was being given the opportunity to subject her motherly desires to the will of God.”
She subjected her motherly desires to God’s will in many ways: by giving birth in a stable, fleeing to Egypt while toddlers were slain by royal edict because the king was looking for her son (can you imagine living with that knowledge?); by Jesus leaving his family after 30 years to go and accomplish His earthly ministry and not have access to Him as she had before; by experiencing the pain of family turmoil since her other sons did not believe Jesus was the Christ; and then, there was the ultimate pain of seeing her son crucified. Indeed, the sword would pierce her side, just as Simeon prophesied (Luke 2:33-35).
But her example in all of this was one of humility. Of being aware the story wasn’t really about her in the first place. It was about Him. And this is not more evident than in the fact that Mary herself was a disciple of Christ.
Gien Karssen recaps Mary’s life beautifully when she writes that Mary experienced “unknown pinnacles of happiness. At the same time she had experienced deep heart sorrows which no other woman has or ever will encounter. But her attitude toward God hadn’t changed. She had proven with her life that she meant the words she spoke when the Messiah was announced, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I will do whatever He desires.'”
I want Mary’s humble response to be my own. Not only in motherhood — but all of life.