We expect gifts to come in a package that are decorated with love and presented with perfection. In reality, life’s best gifts often don’t. They are presented in ways that we don’t even realize we’re receiving a gift. We think we’ve been given a harshly used, second-hand item– And simply by the way it looks, we determine this gift we’ve just received, is useless.
I looked at that stick. Two lines. This means positive. What the crap? Not like it wasn’t possible but come on. I’m not prepared for this. My boyfriend, which can I say was weird to call him at the age of 25 and him 35? Isn’t there another title? Perhaps spouse, but that sounded like something an old person would say. Anyway, I digress… I didn’t think my boyfriend was going to understand the amount of weight that came with revealing the news to my family.
See I grew up in church. I knew better. And worse yet, I was a youth leader and choir director at the church at that point and time. There were kids that looked up to me and parents who thought I was such a great role model. I had let myself, these parents, these kids, the leadership of the church down. I knew I was going to hurt all of them. Then the thought goes beyond them, back to me- What kind of backlash was I going to receive?
All kinds of thoughts running through my mind a mile a minute. I have to tell Semih (my then boyfriend, now husband). What’s he going to think? What’s going to happen there? I know we love each other but…
The “what if’s” started consuming me. Fear, worry, insecurity all became a huge tsunami flooding my heart and mind.
Humiliation. Shame. Guilt. Disgrace. Embarrassment. These feelings began bubble up within me until my emotions began to boil over. I had to get a grip!
They were two loooong hours until Semih got to my apartment for me to give him the news. I hadn’t told him anything when we talked on the phone earlier. I hadn’t prepared him for what he was about to see and hear. When he arrived my eyes were swollen from crying all afternoon. I started sobbing again, so badly that words couldn’t come out of my mouth.
With his arms around me and a look of despair on a face he began questioning me-
“Is it your grandma?”
I shook my head no.
“Is it your mom?”
I shook my head no.
“Is it your dad?”
I shook my head no. I couldn’t get words out and I was having a difficult time breathing from crying so hard.
“Your stepmom? Your sisters? Your brothers? Nieces or nephews?”
I kept shaking my head no.
I fought through the tears to get the words out “I’m pregnant”. I remember burying my head in his shoulder. He pulled me away from his shoulder, looked me right in the eye and said “That’s great! Let’s go to dinner and celebrate!”
I knew in my heart he would be happy, but the doubt had crept in. What a relief I felt from his excitement. It was beyond reassuring. However, I still had to tell parents… and what would be more difficult the church. But what did I receive?
Love, mercy and grace.
I was thinking about that bittersweet day this morning. It led me to the thought of the virgin Mary. A young girl engaged to Joseph. I know how scared I was (and the man I was telling knew he was the father). If I was that much of a mess, how much more difficult was it for her. She was probably somewhere between 12-15, she’s engaged and has to tell her fiancé Joseph that she is pregnant and they both know he isn’t the father. Then there’s the whole “this is totally unacceptable by society” thing and she knows there will be whispers. Lots of whispers. She lives in a very conservative Jewish society. She has no proof of this miraculous conception— how can one prove such a thing? This could possibly be the most scandalous and shameful thing for her and her family.
I can only imagine what the conversation with Joseph looked like for innocent little Mary.
“Joseph, I have something to tell you. You will need to sit down for this.”
In my mind’s eye I can picture Joseph looking into the eyes of his beautiful fiancé saying, “there is nothing that can make me doubt your love for me and nothing will ever keep me from loving you.” He knew her character. He knew the kind of Godly woman she was.
“Well Joe,” I can imagine a single tear dripping down her cheek as she stutters out the words. “I am pregnant and God is the father. An angel came down and told me it was going to happen and it did. I haven’t been with any man… this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
“Wait, hold up right there Mary. You mean to tell me you’re pregnant??? What? And you’re saying that God is the father? You think I’m foolish enough to believe that? Come on Mary, I’m not stupid. If you don’t love me, if there is someone else. You go be with him!”
We can only speculate with our own human emotions the kind of betrayal and pain Joseph was feeling. We can only try to imagine how abandoned and isolated Mary had to feel.
But Mary, clothed in strength knew who she was. She had to throw aside every whisper. She had to be steadfast in knowing who she was carrying and what her call was regardless of what those around her thought. She had to cast aside every need for approval of those around her.
The bible tells us that Joseph calls off the engagement. It wasn’t until an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that indeed Mary was carrying a child that was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that Joseph knew she was telling the truth. After that dream, Joseph knew that Mary was still the Mary he’d known, faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But also faithful to him.
This is the most unexpected blessing. Not just for Mary and Joseph- but for all of us. And it started out in the most unconventional, radical and even scandalous way. It didn’t look like a miracle infact, it looked like just the opposite. It seemed to have caused pain, trouble, heartache. But just like God- He totally knew what He was doing. And upon the birth of this precious baby Jesus, Mary’s name was not only cleared. But she was a woman to be admired- to say the least.
Today you may be suffering through hardship. You may be going through pain that seems too unbearable. You may be dealing with an illness, a broken relationship, finances upside down, struggles that no one can understand. Those around you may be doubting you. People may be stepping away and you feel isolated. Could it be that God is beginning an unexpected blessing in your life? Could He be working out something that is beyond what you could ever dream of? He works in ways that our finite minds cannot process.
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
Isaiah 55:8 (MSG)
I want to encourage you today by telling you God’s greatest gifts usually don’t come wrapped up in a beautiful red bow with sparkly wrapping paper and a matching gift bag all perfect- like something you find in a department store window. The gift doesn’t show up when you are expecting it to. And it doesn’t show up looking like you think it should. While you’re waiting for your miracle, trust it’s on the way— it may not appear the way you thought it would! God is much bigger than that. We serve a God that does things totally unorthodox. He is a God this so totally out of the box that we definitely can’t predict (and sometimes grasp) how or why He does things the way He does. But He ALWAYS COMES THROUGH!
In the waiting, He wants you to trust Him with His seemingly weird ways. He wants you to trust Him that He is doing a work in your life even though it may not feel like it. He is there. When you’re tired. When you’re weary, He is along side you. While you are waiting, He is along side you. What He’s given you may totally be an unexpected gift, one that you didn’t even want at the time, but eventually, you will be glad you received it. God wants you to accept this gift no matter what it looks like now.. and know that when it’s all said and done, the beauty that comes out of it, will be far greater than you could ever imagine!
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)