How Mary Taught Me to Embrace the Mess

A combined picture of two paintings, probably by the same artist, showing Mary holding Baby Jesus in her arms on one side and holding the dead body of Her beloved Son on the other side. Very powerful!: If there was ever a human being who had it all together, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Conceived without sin, immaculate, gentle, and kind, she had it all.  She dedicated her entire being, even her virginity to God.

And then He turned her world upside down. 

He sent an angel to her, which frightened her.  Then, the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. Mary answers with the infamous declaration of ultimate sacrifice and love: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).

And then her life was perfect, right? Actually, quite the opposite.  Soon after she proclaimed her Magnificat, her betrothed tried to quietly divorce her, threatening the life of her unborn child and herself, according to Jewish tradition.  After avoiding near death, she had to travel ninety long miles on a grueling journey to Bethlehem.  When they arrived at their destination, there was no room in the inn, so Mary gave birth in a stable. After her child was born, the only place to lay Him was a feeding trough for animals.  Not a romanticized, Christmas nativity manger, but an animal feeding trough made of clay and straw that was held together with mud.

As if her son’s entrance into the world wasn’t difficult enough, over the next thirty-three years Mary watched her child grow up to be an amazing teacher and healer. But despite His goodness, He was slaughtered by the Roman Empire on one of the cruelest torture devices of the day, a cross.

When Mary said ‘Yes’ to God’s will, the result wasn’t perfection. The result was a mess.

I think we have a false idea that when we give our lives over to God, everything is going to be picture perfect. Things will fall into place and everything will work out.  Yet the truth is that sometimes God will turn our worlds upside down, and we’ll find that only then are things right where they should be.

God never promises perfection when we give our lives to Him. In fact, He warns us explicitly that our lives will more than likely become harder, not easier, when we give ourselves completely to Him. He says we will be persecuted for the sake of righteousness because we know and follow Him.

Yet we expect picture perfect. We want the perfect manger scene with soft straw hay and gentle swaddling clothes.  We want to ignore the messy reality of our lives.

The past months, I’ve been searching for a job. After struggling to not tie my self-worth into every rejection and time I was passed over, I finally resolved to give the job search over to God. Weeks have passed, I still don’t hear back from interviews. Calls come, but no follow-ups. Interviews are scheduled, but no further contact.

If I had given my job search over to God, why hadn’t He fixed my problems? I became more and more frustrated, unable to sit still and quietly let Him lead me to the next step. I was demanding perfection, and resenting Him for the mess I had instead.

When I ask that God’s will be done, it doesn’t mean that everything will magically fix itself, and I will get a call from an employer the next day.  He doesn’t automatically fix things for me…instead, He gives me opportunities to trust Him. And that is one area of my life where I could use a lot of work – so He’s giving me lots of opportunities.

Look back at the story of the Virgin Mary. She’d pledged her virginity to God, and her gift was transformed into something that humans deem impossible: a virgin birth.  God honored Mary’s gift to Him – yet His plan for her life was different that she could have ever imagined. After all, it’s not often that you pledge your virginity to God and the result is a baby boy.

How often do we given God a gift of ourselves with a secret plan in the back of our mind on how He should use that gift? Sure, I said that God’s will can be done in my job search, but what I secretly hoped that God would come in triumphantly and open the door to a job opportunity before I could blink twice. I wasn’t prepared for the part where His answer was ‘sit here in the stillness and wait with me.’

God yearns for our trust more than anything. He desire to take the pen from our hand and write the most amazing, beautifully messy story with our lives – more beautiful than we could have ever written ourselves.  He doesn’t promise perfection. Yet he tells us that He will be right beside us, yes, even until the end of the world.

It won’t be perfect. But it will be holy. He is a good, good father. So let’s allow Him to turn our lives upside down…and embrace the beautiful mess that ensues.



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