i got this card almost 4 years ago when i visited greece for the first time. i have always thought that icons & images are interesting and beautiful, but when i saw this one, i was drawn into the picture. it was as if i jumped into the story, standing in the corner of the room, watching this conversation taking place, feeling every emotion of the two i was secretly watching…
in reality i was standing in a giant, elaborately decorated greek orthodox church, surrounded by candles, gold, images and icons. i held this tiny card in my hand and knew that i needed to take it home with me. there was a story behind the image. and something made me think that i had a glimpse of that story. i have used the little icon card as a bookmark ever since; looking at it every now & then, and always feeling as if i have stepped another’s moment.
the moment that the card/icon reflects is the moment that an angel comes to mary, the mother of jesus, to tell her that she is going to give birth. let me first say, that whether or not you or i believe the story of a virgin birth & jesus as the holy one that comes to us, it nevertheless is a story of risk, faith, and inspiration in my opinion. i have always been fascinated by the story of mary…
a sweet, good jewish 14-ish year old teenager, in love & planning to be married to a good jewish man, alone in her room soon realizes that she is not alone. an angel, gabriel, appears to her. here is where i would first become terrified, if i were her. the angel, confused & scared himself, simply a messenger, has come to share some unbelievably amazing news with her. the message? that she will give birth to a baby boy, who is the son of the holy one.
now, here is where it gets interesting to me, regarding my little greek icon. good christians always read the story & imagine that the angel comes, says what he says, & mary says, “of course! yes! let it be with me, i am your servant.” a crazy reaction, i think, if you take the legend out of it and imagine a real teenage girl’s reaction. i always felt so guilty for not being as ready & open to respond to some big change in life as mary was. but, wait. here’s where it get interesting, when looking at my icon.
in my little greek icon, you see the angel kneeling, almost as if begging and feeling sorry for intruding, knowing that the message he is bringing is crazy. perhaps he, himself, can’t believe what he is about to say to the teenager. and then, there’s mary. look at her, she’s trying to get away. sad. confused. in the middle of simply reading a book, thinking that everything is fine, and then an angel intrudes in on her quiet time and delivers a life-changing message… one that it appears that she doesn’t want. it is a change that she did not ask for and it seems that she wants to deny. i can feel her desire to run out of the room. i can hear all of the questions rolling around in her head, “how is this possible? what’s going to happen to joseph? will he believe me? what will my parents say? surely everyone will think that i have had sex with someone else. am i worthy to carry the son of the holy? this can’t be! i don’t want to have a baby! there is no way that this is real. no! no! no!”
i am actually comforted by this uncomfortable picture because it doesn’t just assume that everything is always hunky dorey when change comes into our lives. it’s not. especially when change is unwelcomed & unexpected. ugh, how tough and scary that is. but, my friends, we know all too well that it happens. something comes & knocks us off our feet, changes our path for us, or presents us with a challenge that seems like mount everest standing in front of us. and before we know it, we are doubting if we can ever make it. the fear, uncertainty, & unknown future cripple us and motivate us to want nothing but to crawl down into a hole and stay there.
but… (you know what’s coming)
that change that seems like will be the thing that causes us to crumble & fall apart, never to be the same again, will indeed leave us completely different than we were before. and it will be hard. but it will be painful & joyful all at the same time. and it will give us life like we could have never imagined before.
think back to mary. young, pregnant, afraid, confused. i’m sure that there is much more to the story than we have read before. i can only sit & imagine what it must have been like for her. yes, she finally said yes & accepted that change that came to her life, but not without taking a moment to breathe. her future was uncertain & unknown, and yet (as the story goes) she found some courage deep inside her to move forward, to make the best of the situation, and to open her heart to the possibilities that lay ahead. she did not run & hide. she wanted to, i believe, but she mustered up all the strength she had and walked forward into her mysterious future. and not only did she walk into her future, she did so with a song in her heart & with a certainty that the uncertainty was part of the journey.
that mary, the one that is scared & confused & ready to run, she is someone that inspires me. the young girl, sitting alone in her room, who somehow found the courage to take a breath, soak it all in – even though she didn’t understand any of it – and then give herself over completely to the decision to “let it be as it is”…. that girl is an inspiration. over & over again in life i am faced with some new change, and either the desire to flee & run, or the desire to just stick my head in the sand & stay where i am. but something deep inside me, perhaps the same deep thing that mary felt, reminds me to take a breath, to risk it all, & to keep going. something touches my soul & reassures me that no matter what, all will be well. even in the middle of all the fear & suffering, i will survive. and if i don’t, then all will still be well.
the point is, i’ve only got this one life to live; and i refuse to sit & just watch it pass by! scared, confused, angry, and uncertain of the future, i will stand up and shout out to the world, “yes! i will embrace the journey!” and then, come what may… whatever mountains, valleys, & dangerous roads that lie ahead, i will be willing to keep on walking, knowing that there are beautiful & stunning views just around every corner.
yes. i completely, fully, utterly offer myself to this crazy, amazing journey in life.
peace along the way.