Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Availability

December 27, 2008 at 9:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

art-of-availability

“In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) When time was ripe, God sent His Son—born of a woman. A simple virgin from Nazareth. Why? I can’t peer back in history before the visit of God’s messenger, but God reveals His sovereignty in shaping this young woman, throughout her entire life, to be His servant and to give birth to His Son–the perfect Servant and the ransom for mankind.

The Lord’s work in Mary’s heart and life is summed up in her words “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” The Lord’s slave. Devoted to Him. At His bidding. Available. God uses those who are available. As the story of Jesus unfolds, Mary’s quiet part in this perfect drama is this: quiet availability to God’s needs. Humble. Pure. A servant.

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)

Mary stood on the verge of a Jewish maiden’s ideal future when the angel appeared to her. A Jewish woman’s identity was wrapped up in her marriage—to a good man, a righteous man, a man with a trade, a man of good reputation and good family. As she listened to the angel’s declaration, the Lord revealed to her something not generally understood by the Jewish nation—that the Messiah would be the Son of God. He would not belong to her husband. When Mary bowed her head and expressed her willingness to do whatever the Lord asked, she opened herself up to heartache and loss. She could have lost her entire future. A woman pregnant outside of marriage was an adulteress and could be stoned. A righteous man could not, in good conscience, marry her. Forever she would be looked down upon, ostracized and whispered about. Still, she made herself available to God, trusting His eternal plan for her life—and that of the child she would bear. I remember the day that the realization dawned on me: Mary and I are not so different. The Lord’s call came to me as well—and I have been chosen to carry the truth of God’s Son as well! God seeks those who are available—empty of their own plans and dreams, so that He may fill them with His Spirit and overshadow them with His power!

Mary rose and went to Judah…and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)

The angel had left Mary with another piece of news—Elizabeth was also miraculously with child. Seeking encouragement and to be an encouragement, Mary rushed to her side and spent the next three months with her. Why? As Elizabeth reached her time to give birth, she must have needed help, encouragement and companionship. Mary made herself available to this godly woman, to help her and to learn from her to be a godly wife—and mother. The Lord has placed in our lives those who are doing His will, seeking His glory. “You should serve each other,” He told His disciples in His last night with them. His desire is to see us become servants, available to encourage, assist and pour out His love to those who love Him.

Joseph rose and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:24)

Even when it seemed that Mary might be abandoned, Almighty God intervened to give Mary a protector and provider. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Joseph. Immediately he rose from his bed and took Mary as his wife. What had her feelings been a short time before? About to be divorced by a man she admired—likely loved deeply. Suddenly he was at her door, calling her name to take her as his wife—early. Catching up her covering, she made herself ready. Available to follow his lead, to trust that he was following the Lord’s command, knowing that in following Joseph, she was doing the Lord’s will. When the Lord transferred Mary’s authority to her husband, He also began speaking to her husband and leaving Mary to hear from Him second-hand. Not because Mary was no longer worthy to hear from the Lord, but because the Lord had sheltered her under the authority of a righteous man. Joseph was her God-given head. Joseph stood under God’s authority and Mary trusted Him. Even Jesus spoke of being under the authority of the Father. The Lord places authorities in each of our lives and leads us through them. Our part is to be available to His leading through them—no matter how inconvenient.

Joseph had to travel…and Mary went with him. (Luke 2:4-5)

God had also placed Joseph under authority. No matter how ungodly the Roman empire was, God was in control and was using the decree of Caesar to accomplish His eternal purpose. As Joseph obeyed the decree, Mary made herself available to her husband, to travel with him, to be with him, in spite of the fact that she was about to have a child. Inconvenient is an understatement, I’m sure. With the discomfort of pregnancy–swelling, water retention, constant bladder pressure, dizziness, nausea–traveling the dusty roads from Nazareth the Bethlehem could hardly have been a pleasure trip. Yet Mary went accompanied her man, so fulfilling the words of the prophets of old in her availability to her husband who was also obeying the government.

They found the baby and His mother. (Luke 2:16; Matthew 2:11)

Alone and cold in a foreign town, the middle of the night she gave birth could not have been the time Mary would have chosen for visitors. Yet as she watched her baby, she opened her heart and arms to the smelly shepherds who had come to see God’s good news. Some time later, finally in the privacy of her own home, she was invaded by a crowd of foreign magi. Again she opened her arms and heart and shared Jesus with those seeking Him. God has called each of us to carry the truth of His Son—and to be available to share Him with anyone who seeks Him.

Take the child and His mother and go to Egypt. (Matthew 3:13)

The Lord’s commands don’t always seem convenient, but they should always be treated as urgent. Joseph took God’s commands seriously and immediately obeyed. His instant obedience produced a wild ride for his wife, Mary. But think how strenuous obedience would have become had Mary balked, complained, dawdled or refused. The quick cooperation of a woman who trusts her man to lead her in the Lord is the encouragement and blessing that can empower that man to do whatever the Lord has called him to do. First the move to Egypt and then the move back, turned Mary’s life upside down. As she learned to be a servant, she recognized Joseph’s obedience to the Lord and his desire to protect her and the baby, Jesus and cheerfully made her place by his side.

Didn’t you know I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)

When Jesus was a baby, he depended on His mother and she gave Him what she thought He needed—food, sleep, baths. As He grew she had to constantly re-learn the hard fact of service: a devoted servant is attentive to the Master’s desires, wishes and needs. A devoted servant seeks to know the Master. And she learned that Her Son came to be the greatest servant of all–to give, to love, to sacrifice and to pour out His own life for the glory of God, His Master in heaven. From the mouth of her perfect twelve-year-old came this humbling reminder, “Didn’t you know…” Jesus’ first responsibility was to be about His Father’s business. Mary had offered herself available to serve the Lord. Her Divine Son was calling her to know Him. The Lord has called us to know Him as well and to serve Him by learning Who He is and what His desires are. As godly women, He has called us to know the men in our lives, to seek to understand them and the ministry to which God has called each of them and to support them in that ministry–their service to God.

Woman, My time has not yet come. (John 2:4)

When Mary informed Jesus of the lack at the wedding in Cana, His words nearly seemed harsh. Like He was irritably saying, “Leave me alone, Mom” in the very tones that used to earn me a sound spanking. But Jesus’ words are so much different than my bad attitude. His was a straightforward reminder that He did not belong to her. Her ways were not His ways. Often we seek to tell God what to do. We try to point out to Him the way in which He can serve us. Mary took the response, digested it and commanded the servants to do what? To be available. What she was learning, she was teaching. “Do whatever He tells you to do.” Then she was silent. When our heart is available, our attitude ready to do whatever He tells us to do, God can take our water and turn into the wine of life!

My mother and brothers are those who do the will of My Father. (Matthew 12:50)

How difficult it must have been for Mary to loosen her mother’s hold and let her Son be in control of the universe. When she and her sons came seeking Him, His words seemed like rejection. “Who are my mother and my brothers? He who does the will of My Father.” But Jesus was not rejecting Mary as the one who had given birth to Him and nursed Him. He was reminding her what it was she had committed herself to do. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. Even the Lord’s mother must learn to trust Him and entrust herself to Him. She had made herself available to serve the Lord. It’s easy to imagine service as doing what I think should be done. What I think is best. What I think will bring God glory. Jesus corrected this misconception with truth: service is doing whatever the Lord asks. Doing whatever He wants. Simply put, obedience. Availability to His needs and requests.

Jesus saw His mother standing nearby. (John 19:26)

From His birth to His death, Mary was available. Even as Jesus hung from the cross, paying for the sins of the world, she stood by, watching and weeping. He saw her and He provided for her care. Did Jesus love His mother? He gave His life to redeem her, to purchase her back from sin and from slavery to the law and to make her a child of God. He bought for her, with His blood, an eternity with Him. Once upon a time, she thought He needed her. Finally she understood that she was lost without Him. As He had once been helpless in her arms, so she was helpless without His intercession. Favored of God—because of Her Son, Jesus.

Mary stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

As Mary watched Jesus grow and fulfill God’s purpose in His life, she treasured every moment in her heart, storing it up. Later she shared all she remembered with Luke, the beloved physician, who sought to write a thorough account of all that Jesus began to do and teach. She made herself available to listen, to watch, to remember, to treasure and available to share the precious life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

matthew-23-11

As I studied this woman of wisdom, I wept over her sacrifices—constantly giving up her dreams, her comfort and finally her Son. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. “Do to me whatever.” The life of a servant is availability to the Master, always near, always ready, always cheerful, always eager. Long before Gabriel visited Nazareth, God had been at work in Mary’s heart, shaping her into an empty vessel that He could fill. From the day she accepted the Lord’s call to carry the Savior of the world, Mary made herself available to the Lord, available to the authorities He had placed over her, and available to anyone who sought Jesus. Pouring herself out as a sacrifice before the Lord, she found favor. Jesus told His disciples the secret of true greatness, “He who desires to be great, must become servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11)

Read the story:  Behold, the Lord’s Handmaid

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8 Comments

  1. Alexandra said,

    Another beautiful post! Thank you!

  2. Katy said,

    wow great post again very Lord led

  3. The Art of Availibilty; Mary’s Availibility « A Radiant Life said,

    […] Posted by Katy on December 27, 2008 I found the sequel to the first Christmas this time talking of  Mary’s availability by Pearls and Diamonds. […]

  4. Vanessa said,

    Mary’s availability and obedience make her a beautiful example to all women. Beautiful post!

  5. Anna said,

    Hi!
    Thank you for the lovely email!

    As I read this, I thought, “Wow, God is really teaching through this!” I love reading insightful thoughts about how we should be in relationship to God and His Son.

    Have you read “Blue Like Jazz” or “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller? His style is similar to yours. He speaks plainly of things that many people try to ignore, such as how Christianity can become formulaic and all about doing the do’s and not doing the don’ts. I think you would enjoy his candor.

    Thank you again for pointing out the need for our availability to God. 🙂
    -Anna

  6. Anna Lofgren said,

    Another great post, Abigail! Thank you for taking the time to really research Mary in-depth. The applications you draw from her story are ones we should all seek to follow.

  7. Larissa said,

    That post convicted me. I don’t allow myself to be as available as God wants me to be. I become selfish with my fleshy needs and desires and my ears become less effective to hear His voice. Thank you, you’ve made me realise that I’m doing this again. I think I’ll take a copy of this post and put it on my desktop so I can re-read it and do a little study myself. God Bless you and your Godly writings.

  8. Abigail said,

    Anna–I’ve heard of “Blue Like Jazz”–and I think I’ve tried to find it and been unsuccessful. I’ll have to look again! Thanks for the suggestion!

    It’s been terribly convicting to me to remember Mary these past few weeks…when I know I’ve been serving myself instead of making myself available.

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