How many times have you put your trust in someone only to have him or her shatter that trust like glass slammed down on a hot sidewalk? How many times have you believed someone when he told you he loved you only to find out later that love was based on conditions you couldn’t meet or that were impossible to maintain for a lifetime?
How many times have you been caught in a bad situation and then told by well meaning bystanders that it will all work out in the end or that God uses all things according to His plans or that good things come to those who wait?
How many times have those words caused you to question your trust in mankind, your self-worth, your ability to Love and to be Loved? How many times have those words caused you to question the existence of a Loving, Just, all powerful, all knowing God or your ability to be worth a Father like that?
For the most part, I am happy with where I am now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it once in a while, that backslide where the devil gets a small claw under my skin, when he whispers back at me all those broken promises I believed and tells me what a fool I was.
I still occasionally take his voice into my head, into my heart. I begin to doubt that I am Good enough, that anyone would ever want me or care for me or Love me. I start to doubt that I am good enough for friends and family, never mind a potential Love; I doubt that I am good enough for my own children. After all, I can’t compare to what others look like or have or do or are. What is worse is that these reminders of broken promises seem to flare up just when Hope in something new begins. That devil whispers in my ear:
I am just me, and I can’t be enough.
The broken promises have told me that.
I am not worthy.
In the Gospel leading up to the birth of Christ, we see Mary, a humble young woman, sought out by the Angel to do the will of God. For a moment Mary is “greatly troubled.” Perhaps she too questions her worth before giving her yes to the Lord, but she turns her doubt around quickly.
What made Mary believe the unbelievable words spoken to her and how can we do the same?
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Mary, humbly puts her own concerns aside and sets out to meet her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, to offer her assistance, and it is in Elizabeth’s words that we find the answer.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.
You see, Mary believed what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. That’s where the difference lies.
We believe things about God and His Commandments rather than by the Lord Himself.
In Marriage, we believe promises given by man to Love in Good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do us part because we want to believe in our spouses and because we know God’s desire is for Marriage to be a permanent covenant.
But we often pick someone unwilling to keep God’s commands. We put our Trust in people rather than in what God says and then we are hurt when they show themselves to be who they are. It is Good to believe in God’s plan for Marriage and in other plans He’s given us, but it doesn’t mean they will always turn out as we believe.
When a Marriage crumbles, especially when it crumbles against our will, when a child gets sick, when a house burns down, when a job is lost and we are told better things await, that God has a plan for us, that we will be better off, or that we will meet somebody new, we want to believe these things but then we often see evidence of the opposite being true. We see poverty that others do not recover from, a welfare system that makes it difficult to escape cycles, the elderly dying alone and unnoticed.
And we wonder, how does this match up to what was spoken to us? How are we better off? How is this coming together in God’s plan? Where is the Good life we were told we’d have one day?
The confusion isn’t in whether a Good life awaits us or not though. That Good life is there; I promise you that, but don’t take my word for it. Don’t ever take a human’s word for Gospel truth. Humans make mistakes. They will let you down. They will hurt and disappoint you. They will misunderstand you and be misunderstood by you.
It doesn’t make us worth any less. It doesn’t make us unlovable. It’s just our humanness. We are not God. We are not perfect, and sometime even our well meaning words lead astray.
The Good life is there, but that’s not my promise. It is a promise given to you by Jesus Christ. What He doesn’t promise us is a timeline, a Good life here, on earth. Our shortsightedness has changed His promise of a Good life in eternity to mean “You’ll find somebody better (soon),” and “You’ll be better off in the long run (but that “long run” better be in the next x number of years),” and “It’ll all work out in the end (but an end beyond earth in incomprehensible).
We may be willing to suffer for a given amount of time,
but we feel we are owed a happy, earthly ending.
After all isn’t that what everyone tells us?
The difference between Mary’s instant turn around and our being stuck where we are with our little backslides, is in who we listen to.
Mary believed what was spoken to her by the Lord. We believe what is spoken to us by our spouses at the altar and by our friends as they console us in our sorrows, but not by the Lord who watches all of this. We look for consolation in this life and take for granted that it will come in the next.
Mary looked for nothing in this life. She accepted God’s Word and went from there, humbly serving others. Despite the hurt and confusion and fear she must have faced, Mary trusted and Loved unconditionally. She did not withhold her Love for fear of being hurt. She did not sit bitterly and wait for a better future she felt she was owed, but she also didn’t reach out and give her Love to just anyone.
It was in her Trust of the Lord, in her recognizing of His voice, and in her submission to His will, that Mary was free to Love and to live Joyfully through it all.
That is our call too. It is not in the promise one gives at the altar or the well meaning consolation of a beloved friend, but in the Word of our Savior that allows us to hold fast to the better life ahead even if that doesn’t mean an earthly life.
When we place our Trust in the Lord and fasten our beliefs to His Word, we are able to risk living and loving again because we know our worth comes from God, not from man.
To Love again does not mean we naively think vows are indestructible or that our next choice will never fail us, but that we understand the importance of waiting for a partner who also hears the call of the Lord. It means, even then, putting your faith in the Lord even before faith in your spouse. It means knowing that, if something is to go wrong, it is still the Shepherd’s voice you will follow, the Shepherd who will never stop calling you by name, searching for you, reaching out for you, the Shepherd who guides you Home, the Shepherd whom you Trust and lean on, the Shepherd who you believe.
When you know your worth to God you Father, when you know you are watched over by a Loving Shepherd and protected by the strength of the Holy Spirit, it is then that you are free, free to risk Love, free to reach out to others, free to make changes to the world for the better.
When you stop believing that what is spoken to you by man will be fulfilled and know for certain, as Mary did, that what is spoken to you by God will be fulfilled, when you stop seeking the Good life here and now and start living for eternity, God finds little ways to open your heart to Hope and Love again. This world may not have been all you’d hoped for one day, but it is still a beautiful place.
Place your Trust in the Word of the Lord. Humbly Love and serve Him and He promises you the Good life awaits.
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