And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. Luke 1: 56
I remember the first three months of my pregnancies as being the longest three months of my life. The effort of keeping the news secret in case something happened to the baby was taxing on my inner spirit. Being nauseous and throwing up at the same time every day was tiring on my body. And my self-esteem took a beating while I was waiting to finally look pregnant and not like I was overindulging on Oreo's.
When the pregnancy was no longer a secret and I was free to share my experiences with others who were already mothers or in the midst of their own pregnancies (there were three of us teaching who were pregnant at the same time), I found comfort in the fact that I was not alone in my “I’m not so sure about what is happening to my body” experience. I found solace with the friends who hadn’t felt great either for the first few months of their pregnancies. Their tender eyes, quick hugs and encouraging words told me they understood and I didn’t feel guilty telling them I wasn’t enjoying this experience very much.
God knew Mary would need a trail blazer before her. He knew she would need someone who was a few months ahead of her on the pregnancy journey to provide her with advice on how to handle the changes that were about to occur in her body. He provided her with a role model to follow on how to handle a miracle pregnancy. Most of all, He knew she needed to help Elizabeth give birth to John in order to be able to give birth to Jesus alone with Joseph in the stable.
God knew what Mary needed and he provided it for her through her relationship with Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s willingness to let Mary stay with her for three months was a profound gift of friendship and faith. Elizabeth may not have realized it at the time, but sharing her life and experience with Mary must have strengthen and empowered her to withstand the challenging road that was ahead of her.
Sweet sisters, we are the greatest gift to each other. When we are willing to open up our hearts and share our faith experiences with each other great things happen. God doesn’t do things by accident. He didn’t send Mary to Elizabeth as a last resort. He guided that encounter on purpose.
I believe God places us in each other’s path for a purpose. Our purpose may change from year to year or from person to person. We may be there to point the way or to offer encouragement to someone who is searching. We may be the one who needs to ask for help or lend support. It might be that our experience uniquely qualifies us to offer compassion and understanding to a hurting heart. Or it could be that our youth might be required to inspire new ideas or to bring hope to someone who has been beaten down by the daily grind of life.
Dear reader, you may be the Mary who needs a mentor, or you may be the Elizabeth who is being called to mentor, but my prayer today is that as women of God we reach out, circle up, embrace our roles and help each other as only godly women can.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Did you know that stickers have power? Stop and think about it. Think about what you can get children to do for a sticker. Gold stars for chores. Smiley ones for attendance. Green ones for good behavior. Giant ones for high marks on school work. Children will do almost anything to get a sticker.
As adults, we aren’t that different. We will do just about anything to get a pat on the back or a few words of praise. We work long hours at work hoping the boss will notice and give us a raise or at the very least say “Good, job.” We scour our homes before guests come over just to hear, “Wow, it looks amazing in here. Your home is beautiful.” We spend a little too much money on clothes to hear that we look nice. Our annual gym membership yields us a few, “Your arms look great or how do you stay so thin?” moments in our day.
If we are honest with ourselves, much of what we do in life we do because we crave the praise of people. A like on Facebook gives us the same inner glow that the gold sticker once did on our math homework. We do, we say, we post, we maneuver to acquire the accolades of the people around us. The more “likes” we get the more affirmed we feel. Soon our motivation for doing things and our self-esteem are tied to the “stickers” we receive on our endeavors. Someone liked it? Let’s do it again. Someone criticized it? I must be terrible at it. Let’s not do that again! Our self-worth becomes so twisted and tangled in the need to hear someone say we are okay and doing things well we are like a fly caught in spider’s web unable to escape the sticky strings that strap us to an undesired destination.
I can’t freely serve God if I am always tied to seeking the praise of others. If I am constantly seeking the reward of a sticker, I will say and do things in order to “hear” that I am accepted and good enough. If I don’t get a sticker, I will worry that I have disappointed someone with my words or actions. I will struggle under the weight of constantly feeling like I have let people down. Guilt will begin to cast a long shadow over the 1,440 minutes of my day sending me to seek for sunshine in with words of others.
The Bible teaches us that we can’t serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other. We can’t live for the praise of man and please God at the same time. We have to choose. We have to make up our minds to follow God no matter what. I need to do my best in whatever I have been called to do and then let it go. I need to put down my phone. I need to stop seeking likes and praise for my posts and pictures. I need to ask myself why I am saying or posting something before I do it. Am I looking for praise and affirmation from my online friends? Or am I truly trying to share my life and encourage others? If no one ever likes something I say, do or post, will I be okay with that?
The ultimate service question for me is, can I be content doing something just because God has asked me to do it whether or not anyone else ever notices or says something?
So today, before you post that picture or click that like button ask yourself, "Who am I doing this for? Am I seeking the approval of God or am I looking for a sticker from man?"
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.