Mary, did you know
That your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you
Have you ever had one of those moments were you start to see a pattern forming? Like a puzzle piece coming together. Over the past month God has been forming this puzzle, speaking to me His mysterious plan of new life, hope, and sanctification. A work that He did long ago, but He is shining a new light on it now. And if you know me, you know that I am a verbal processor. So here I am to try to make sense of the puzzle I have been watching God put together. Bear with me as some of it may feel jumbled or like it doesn’t quite fit.
This post may seem clearer if you knew me as a child, but for those of you who didn’t, here are a few words to describe me: energetic, outgoing, and defiant to any and all authority. I mean I could give you more, but that sums it up. With an emphasis on defiant. You see, I’m an eight on the Enneagram… I have formed this unhealthy coping strategy of defiance in order to be in control. And for eights, the control tendancy happened when sin came into the world. We all bear the image of God, yet it is covered by so many coping strategies; coping strategies to, like me (and other Eights) gain control, or to gain perfection (like Ones), to gain love (like Twos), to gain success (like Threes), to gain identity (like Fours), to gain usefulness (like Fives), to gain security (like Sixes), to gain satisfaction (like Sevens), or to gain peace (like Nines). Most of us have years and years of patterns with these coping strategies, or false self, as I’ve heard Ian Morgan Cron, talk about. The Enneagram has helped me to see these patterns that I’ve formed that ultimately are covering up the image of God that so desires to be born in each of us. And the beauty is He doesn’t need a tidied up, clean room. He comes in a dirty, and smelly manger.
The mystery of God’s revelation is hidden inside, and in each of us in a different, unique way (at least nine general God images). But each of us is like a baby in the womb, yet unborn and unrecognized and unloved. Like Jacob waking from his long dream we say, “Truly God was in this place and I never knew it… This is awe-inspiring, this is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:16-17).
Paul speaks of it as “a hidden wisdom, a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or if they had known it they would not have killed [the human one]” (1 Cor. 2:7-8). So Jesus became the Human One who believed the divine image in himself, who trusted it, followed it, and told us to do the same. We must not kill or deny the partial, incipient image within us, but like Mary allow it to be born, even if in a stable.
-The Enneagram- A Christian Perspective, Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
As I walk through Advent, I can’t help but to think of my own experience with pregnancy. As I read through Mary’s experience of fear and disbelief, and quickly onto obedience, I remember my own fear and disbelief with my first pregnancy. It was not a virgin pregnancy but it almost felt like that to me! We got pregnant on our honeymoon (and on birth control, I must say). I remember the utter shock I felt as I was in our tiny apartment bathroom in Winston-Salem, NC. Away from all friends and family, a newly graduated college student, a 5-week old wife, a 21 year old girl. I remember thinking “how could this have happened?!” I felt as if something had happened to me, and was going to continue to happen, that I had no control over (you see that word, control again? it’s always there). Of course, I knew how it happened. And I knew I in fact did do something, that enabled this precious child to form inside me. But in that moment, it felt so utterly terrifying and shocking to me. And while Mary quickly moved from fear and disbelief to obedience, it took me much longer. It took months and months of crying in that tiny apartment, away from family and friends. I was grieving the plan I had for my life. And while kids were in that plan, it wasn’t for a long long time. But something happened in the grieving, in the shock, in the anger, in the depression. I leaned on my newly wedded husband. The one I said these words to just months prior:
“I take you, Dylan.
Before God, I gladly leave myself and with you become one,
to seek constantly to live a life that is pleasing to God,
to love Him and you, to serve Him and you, and to willingly accept the blessings and the trials until the day we stand before the Father in heaven.”
And here we were, unknowingly becoming sanctified through this child who would change our lives. Yes, the sanctification was by God, not by the child I carried and delivered. But God so mightily used this tiny person to take off some of that Eight-ness, those unhealthy patterns of control and taking charge. I was forced to sit in a place of fear and disbelief, and eventually acceptance of something beautiful forming inside of me that I did not yet know.
A child was born to us, and then two more after that, and they have been sanctifying us and delivering us from our own selfish, and sinful tendencies. I am so thankful for the Savior who came in a dirty manger, to a young, terrified girl. Who says to us all, I too desire to be born in you, even if it is in a manger. And in fact, it must be in a manger. Because we all know we simply cannot clean it up on our own.
May you know the power of our God and His Son Jesus being born, and His Spirit indwelling within us. And despite the conditions of our sin, may you see His image in all those around you.