Has God ever asked something of you that was not in your plans?
Our pastor began his sermon with this question, reflecting on Mary’s pregnancy and how having a baby was probably not what she had planned for her life at that particular moment.
My reflection on his question helped me see the many times God has asked me to do things that ran contrary to my plans.
Sometimes what God asked was clear, as though an angel appeared and announced God’s desires. Taking care of my friend Jim was one of those times. An incurable brain cancer was not in the plan, but it was a clear indication that God was asking something of me.
Other times, though, God has whispered his desire in my ear, and I have had to listen carefully to know what God was asking of me.
Years ago, I visited a friend when she was eight months pregnant with twins. She hadn’t asked for help, but something in her voice suggested she might need some, and I drove the three hours from Newport News to South Boston, VA, to see if there was anything I could do for her.
It was summer, and her garden was ready to be harvested. Her family depended on the garden to get them through the winter, but being pregnant made it difficult for her to bend down and pick, and she was behind in her canning.
With three young children and a very large garden, my friend was overwhelmed and exhausted.
I stayed for several days, picking vegetables in the mornings and canning into the nights. I did laundry and cooked meals, while she sat with me and we caught up on our lives.
I remember wondering if this was how it was when Mary visited Elizabeth. Did Mary help with chores that Elizabeth, at six months pregnant, was struggling to accomplish? Did she do laundry and prepare meals? Did they sit and chat, sharing confidences and fears?
God continued to ask things of Mary and Joseph that were probably not in their plans. Having to travel to Bethlehem just when Mary was ready to give birth and later fleeing to Egypt are two that come to mind. Leaving what was familiar seemed to be a theme in their journey with God.
Setting aside my plans and moving out of my comfort zone also seem to be a theme in my journey with God. Whether the message comes as a neon sign or a quiet whisper, hearing God’s invitation and saying yes has always led to an experience of incarnation, of God being present.
I only need to trust, and like Mary, I will be blessed when I believe that what was spoken to me by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:45)