Lindsey Mitzel considers what she'd first labeled a failure in Advent as a challenge from Jesus to accept what God has allowed to happen in her life.
As Advent comes to a close, I'm feeling unprepared for Christmas. I kind of want to press the pause button and ask for a two-week extension. It's not the busyness of the Christmas season getting to me. I don't have any more gifts to buy, nor do I want to. No, this Advent, I prayerfully considered a devotional, but got behind with the meditations pretty much instantaneously. My toddler arbitrarily decided to quit naps at the same time as sleeping at night. Simultaneously, my baby switched from three naps a day to two, and started going to bed (and waking up) a few hours earlier. We decided to change sleeping arrangements a few times, which meant that our family Jesse tree, situated in one of the bedrooms, was made inaccessible due to early bedtimes. My husband's work schedule has required long hours away from home, which meant my kids didn't see their daddy for days at a time, and the days were exhausting for everyone. Our intercessory prayer times with littles got shorter and shorter as bedtimes got earlier and earlier. Most significantly, one of my parents had an unexpected medical emergency, and has been hospitalized for the majority of Advent.
I did try to keep up with my Advent devotional. Most nights I fell asleep on the couch an hour or so after putting my kids to bed with an open book on my lap. What I needed was rest, and wasn't able to get very much. What I saw, however, was my not accomplishing what I'd set out to do. In my mind, that translated to failing. In grappling with this sense of defeat, frustration for struggling, and how hard it is right now to find rest, I planned to ask Jesus why I felt like this, and how He feels about how my Advent has gone.
That's right. I planned to ask Him, because I didn't actually have moments of enough solitude to peacefully sit and hear an answer He may give (before promptly falling asleep, of course). After awhile of looking for a perfect moment to ask, I finally gave up and asked while putting my baby down for bed, which is about the only quiet I have in a given day.
In even that small space, Jesus reminded me of Mary's fiat.
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." . . .
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:30-38)
I have heard people talk about Mary's "yes to God" many times. What strikes me is that the angel doesn't ask Mary for her approval or for her permission. The angel Gabriel states to Mary what will happen. I'm certain this is nuanced. Mary has found favor with God, and wouldn't have if she weren't already extremely humble and willing to accept His will for her.
Regardless, Mary's response to Gabriel is not a "Yes" of approval, but rather a statement of acceptance.
In considering my Advent, the current challenges of my life, and my frustration with not being able to accomplish what I'd set out to do spiritually in this time, Jesus asks me: am I actually accepting what God has allowed to happen in my life, or am I fighting against it? Am I willing to allow the Lord to bring me peace as He wills and when He wills, or am I trying to create peace by seeking to control aspects of my life?
Jesus digs a little deeper and asks me to accept humility. Again and again, living in His will is my needing to acknowledge He is God, and I'm just not. My Advent wasn't what I planned for it to be, and in so many ways, it does look like I failed. Honestly, it's for the best. My plans failed, but God's didn't. He is helping me learn in a greater way to accept humility and to accept His will for my life. Sometimes God's plan can seem not just counterintuitive to our culture, but also to our own ideals, which may even be filled full of good spiritual desires.
Certainly Jesus' incarnation was very challenging for Mary -- her acceptance of God's will was culturally unacceptable, and she must have suffered at misunderstandings, assumptions and ungenerous looks. Praise God that Mary was willing to accept God's plan and accept humility. Her acceptance of God's will for her allowed Jesus to be born and given for each of us.
It feels presumptuous to think that my acceptance of all the difficult things in my life right now could impact anything in a similar way. Yet God doesn't ask me to be great. He only asks me to be faithful. It is fitting that as Jesus is about to come to us in all humility as a tiny, helpless newborn, God's will for me right now to to also grow smaller and more dependent upon Him.
Copyright 2020 Lindsey Mitzel
Image: Jeswin Thomas (2018), Pexels
About the Author
Lindsey Mitzel is a nurse practitioner and mom to four littles. When not wrangling with or reading to her kids, she can usually be found doing something outdoors. She appreciates dry humor, a good pun, and strong coffee. You can read more about her at Eight and a Half Months. Lindsey also occasionally writes for Be Love Revolution's Tiny Thoughts blog.