Monday, December 22, 2008

Lesson in Faith from Mary & Joseph

Today, I was thinking about the Nativity story. Though I have heard the story at this time of year for most of my life, I was very touched by it this time. I thought about the young girl, Mary, and her humble acceptance of the whole experience. I can't imagine the faith and the personal strength & conviction to her faith that she had to have to endure all that she faced.

Imagine being a very young woman and betrothed. Living at a time when pregnancy when unwed was considered reason to be stoned to death. To have the angel appear and tell you that you are to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. Her humble reply of accepting the Lord's will is so awe inspiring. I wonder how we would handle such a situation today?

As I discussed this with my Beloved, we also spoke of Joseph and the faith he must have had. To be ready to quietly divorce Mary to prevent her from being publicly dishonored, then to change your mind after a dream. Later, when Joseph was told by a dream that he had to take Mary and the baby to Egypt to protect them from harm, he again followed the counsel given in the dream. Not only did he flee with his family, but he left right away in the middle of the night! There was no waiting until morning or debating the issue. He woke Mary and they took the infant, Jesus, and fled in the night.

I wonder. Is our personal relationship with our Lord strong enough that if our spouse were to have a dream and awake us saying that the Lord said we must get up and flee our home, would we listen? Would we have faith enough in the Lord to know that it is something we must do? Or would we look at our spouse like they were having a silly dream and roll over to go back to sleep? I think that one of the keys to answering this question for ourselves is to ask, what type of relationship do we have with the Lord?

An acquaintance or business relationship is one where you have to talk to the person, but you wouldn't if it wasn't really necessary. In this type of relationship, we talk to the Lord in prayer because it is expected of us. We say grace at the dinner table, for example, or bow our heads during prayer at church. The prayers are simply words that are said without any real heart-felt meaning to them.

A friendship is a closer relationship. With friends, you like to spend time talking about your experiences and the things going on in your life. That is a good start in our relationship with the Lord. It is certainly more meaningful than the acquaintance/business type of relationship. When you think about it though, a friendship can be a fickle thing. It is almost a choreographed relationship. You talk or spend time with your friends when it is convenient or something that you feel like doing. Likewise, it is something that you can easily set aside when you are not wanting to be bothered. In this type of relationship, we pray and spend time with the Lord. We share our experiences and have a relationship with Him. This kind of relationship can work for many years, but just like with friendships, it can fail if it is tested with trials in life.

The courting/betrothed relationship is a much deeper one. Think about when you met your husband. You spent a lot of time getting to really know him. You wanted to share not just your experiences but your thoughts. You wanted to share your heart with him. You wanted to truly get to know who he is. You wanted to get to know his heart. In this type of relationship with the Lord, we have the deep desire to really know Him. We speak to Him in prayer from our hearts. We spend time in His Word learning of Him and His will for us. Just as our husband is someone that we want to run to and share our joys and our sorrows, we go to the Lord with both the difficult times and the joyous ones.

If our relationship with the Lord is one of an acquaintance or even that of a friend, I doubt that we would take seriously any guidance that came our way that was out of the ordinary. If our husband has a strong, deep relationship with the Lord and were to have a dream telling him to take his family and flee just as Joseph did, we would likely look at our husband as though he had "lost it" and not take him seriously if our own relationship with the Lord that of an acquaintance or simple a friend. If we had a deep relationship like that of someone who is courting or betrothed, wouldn't we be more likely to listen and respond?

It is never easy to follow the guidance of an unknown leader. How much easier though is it to follow the counsel and guidance of someone you know and trust? The closer your relationship or the deeper your knowledge of that leader, the easier it is to put faith in their guidance and trust that it is sound and right. It is the same with the Lord. If we have the deeper relationship with Him, following His counsel would be far simpler because we would know Him enough to have full faith and trust in Him.

Spending time getting to know our Lord is critical. Learning of the Lord, seeing the consistent way in which He dealt with His people by delving into His word, spending time in prayer and sharing your heart with Him, getting to really know Him is what it takes to be able to follow His guidance without question.

In our human-ness, it is often difficult to give up control. We worry and fret over all the "what ifs" in life. As we get to know the Lord though, these worries and fears dissipate. We come to find the peace and rest that He promises. It doesn't matter what trials or situations arise in our lives. The steadiness of the Lord will carry us through any storm that come into our lives.

In this time when so many are faced with the financial burdens and struggles, I pray that each will reach out and get to know the Lord and find the peace and calm that only He can bring. Be open to His guidance, leaning not on your own understanding but on the Lord. His way may not always be easy, but He is always faithful and will be there with you to sustain you when your own strength and knowledge fail you.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,