I've had place value on the brain lately. I'm teaching it in my homeschooling adventure. And since the Lord knows that I am not the greatest multitasker when it comes to cognitive exercise, He used it to teach me a lesson of great value.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Each Christmas I take some time to examine Mary, the mother of Jesus. She fascinates me on many levels.
She was in her lifetime the most blessed woman to ever walk the earth. She was the one woman in all of history to be picked to mother the Messiah of the World.
She was also one that suffered probably the deepest hurt a woman can suffer. In becoming a believer in Christ, she had to come to the realization that it was her sin that caused her son to be born and her sin that caused him to die the cruel death on the cross.
Luke 2:35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Why did God pick her? Why not some other woman?
As I looked at this passage, I noticed two things that Mary understood. And because of it, she was blessed beyond comprehension, even in her greatest suffering.
1. First of all, Mary knew her value. Up until that encounter with the angel, life had probably been pretty normal for this lowly Jewess. She had grown up in her home, learned of her mother and was now engaged to be married. Life was progressing as expected. Now, all of the sudden, here she was unmarried and pregnant, but not pregnant with the man she was going to marry. What a nightmare! I wonder how many people never believed her story. I would guess most people. Miracles in Israel had ceased and for the past 400 years the knowledge of miracles were relegated to stories of their ancestor's interactions with Almighty God. Besides, common sense would convince many that this "miracle" story was an attempt to save her skin. How many of us could bear up under the scrutiny that Mary came under without cracking?
Probably the only thing that kept Mary together during that time was the message brought to her by the angel.
"thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."
Mary had an encounter with the God of miracles that she had heard so much about while growing up. And those few words sustained her in a way that nothing else could have. No matter what people said to her, no matter what they whispered behind her back, no matter how many condemning stares or looks of disdain she received when walking the streets of Nazareth, the voice in her heart rang loudly in her ears "thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Mary had the realization that God had picked her for this special purpose. He had placed her in this time and place, much like Esther, "for such a time as this". He had blessed her as He had blessed the mother of the Israel when He miraculously gave a child to Sarah and Abraham. She too, would forever be the mother of a new people. She would be the mother of the Saviour of the World.
2. Secondly, Mary knew her place. Mary did not allow the message of the angel declaring her a great woman of faith and power to influence her in a negative way. She remained humble and submitted, which is why God probably picked her in the first place,
Luke 1:48 "For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."
Even after meeting face to face with a messenger of God, even after being called "highly favoured and blessed among women", Mary's description of herself was "a handmaiden of low estate". Her own description of herself found her in a place of servitude. A "helpmate" of the Lord. She was completely submitted to God, her Father, and Her Lord and she molded her new life around His perfect will and plan although it must have been quite a stretch at times.
As I thought about this story that just never seems to grow old to me, I pictured myself in Mary's position and I came to realize that Mary had the key to living just as God desires for us to live. Because of it, she had the approval, the blessing, the protection, the leading, and the provision of God alive and active in her life. Because she knew her value, nothing that anyone else said or did moved her from the path that the one who so highly valued her laid before her. She did all she did simply to please God, regardless of what anyone else thought. And because she knew her value, she was happy, content and totally fulfilled in the place that God had put her. She didn't attempt to follow Jesus around as His right hand man in the preaching ministry. She didn't attempt to gain any notoriety from being the mother of a person that was literally shaking the known world right before her very eyes. In fact, Mary remained just where God had placed her from the very beginning-in motherhood. It was there that she was blessed. And when the time came for that sword to pierce her heart, she withstood the onslaught because she knew "God was with her."
Many times I have tried to change the place where God has placed me because I believed that it would make me more valuable. At times through the years I've bought into the lie that says that we have to be something in man's eyes or in the eyes of society to be found in a favorable place with God. I've allowed the ideals of worldly success to influence my idea's of spiritual success.
I remember praying many years ago for God to "make me effective for Him", thinking it a very noble prayer, but feeling it deeply in my heart as well. Instead, I should have cut that prayer short and just simply asked God to "make me." When God makes us, He them places us and because we have discovered our value in God through the making, where we're placed really doesn't matter very much as long as we know it's right smack dab in the center of God's will.
I like looking at bridges. Structurally they are astounding. One day I realized that the most important part of a bridge is the supports that are mostly unseen by anyone except those who place them there during the construction period. Without them, the bridge would fail miserably. But when speaking of the bridge, very little, if anything is said about the supports, even though those supports are providing it's most vital need, keeping the bridge from falling into the water and being swept away. It is of great value where it is placed, and it is placed there because of it's great value.
So when I find myself feeling that I would be "better" in a different "place", I stop and realize that God has me where I am for a reason-His reason. And because His grace has been extended to me in such abundance, I can honestly look into His face and say "For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" and I am certainly blessed! I then can once again get my focus back on Him and not where He's chosen for me to be as if it's something that I need to improve on or get out of because my place in life, easy or hard, does not determine my value at all, at least not in God's economy. And that's a valuable place to be.