And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

When God decided to invade history for the sake of redeeming humankind, God used a 13 year old woman child named Mary.  The angel Gabrielle is sent to reveal God’s plan and Luke 1:38 is her answer.

Mary did not fully grasp, at that very moment, how close all those close calls were going to be:  the almost quite divorce from Joseph, the long journey to Bethlehem resulting in a barn birth, the two and a half year hide out years in Egypt; fleeing King Herod.  No not at that very moment. At that very moment, I think she thought about her father.  He was the man in charge of her upbringing and protector of the family’s social status.  His primary job was to deliver Mary to the marriage bed pure. The primary qualification for a wife at that time was sexual loyalty and knowledge of and a work ethic toward running a household (take it, her mother taught her most of these things.). But the buck stopped with her father.   If those things did not happen, public shame plagued not only Mary but her family and especially her father.  Did he deserve that?  Was the sacrifice of her father’s honor worth this?  Things had been set up to go so smoothly; with the betrothal to Joseph.  By saying “yes” to God she would have to sorely disappoint and shame two men in her life; one representing her past, the other her future.

Yet, God chose her – a woman-child without the means to support herself.  How easily she could have been cast aside by these two men and everyone else.  Mary defined vulnerability and we should not be surprised at God’s path.  The God of the Bible is attracted to human vulnerability.  God chooses a woman-child in Luke 1, comes in the form of a baby in Luke 2, grows up to heal the sick, bless the children and speaks to a Samaritan woman.  This list goes on.  Yes, what is with God and human vulnerability?  We humans don’t get it, as a matter of fact, we don’t like it!

If I knew now what I didn’t then, I’d probably had postponed my own wedding.  But at the time, and being the person I was, it was a sweet deal.  I was a year out of seminary and serving as a head pastor at a medium church in a large town.  I had the paycheck, the parsonage and the car that ran.  My to-be husband at the time was tiptoeing through seminary via long distance learning and serving as a youth pastor.  When he decided to quit work and return to school full time, I became the sole bread winner, the chief homemaker and primary CEO.  He called me his “sugar momma”.  But don’t worry, I was a benevolent dictator!   I did feel “large and in-charge”….until I woke one Thursday morning with a small scratchy feel in the back of my throat.  As the day progressed, I felt weak, even dizzy at times.  Before lunch I called the doctor, who graciously squeezed me in her schedule at the end of the day.  The trouble with the appointment was the timing, it came after my husband returned home.  Kevin came into our living room to find me in the middle of a pile of blankets and pillows with our faithful Labrador (and blog mascot) at my feet.  He soon realized that he did not need adoring eyes to behold his new bride.  He needed a thermometer, a wet washcloth and a puke bucket!  I was sick and I had to depend on my new husband to take care of me.  This was vulnerability.  My sugar momma façade had been reduced to a puddle physical misery.

Even in this unattractive state, would my husband still care for me?  Did he only love me when I was his sugar momma?  God bless that saint I married!  Not only did he hold my hair back while I made use of the puke bucket, but he ran into the bathroom afterwards and called his momma asking, “What do I do?”  It turns out my new husband felt just a vulnerable as I did.  And out of that whole first year of marriage (which can be the most rough) this memory is the sweetest because this moment pivoted my attitude from playing the role of sugar momma to being real and authentic in my marriage.

Brene Brown says it like this, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”  Mary makes no pretenses of who she is.  She is very well aware of her situation.  Could you imagine if Gabrielle made the same announcement to King Herod’s wife?  It would have been a negotiation between super powers!  But not Mary, she had her feet firmly planted in the truth of the hour.  She knew who she was and she was well acquainted with who had sent Gabrielle.  Embracing that truth gave her the courage to say “yes”.

Going to sit at the bedside of a dying friend, taking responsibility for an error at work, confronting a family member about bad behavior….all of these are vulnerable moments for us humans.  None the less they present themselves daily and Christian ethics teaches us to lean on honesty and tell the truth.  How do we say “yes” to the Christian way?  We, like Mary, embrace our vulnerability, our fallibility, and our limitations.  With one foot in that truth and the other in the truth of God’s love for us we find courage.