Mary Pt. 2: Confidence in a Misunderstood Identity
One of the spiritual disciplines I struggle with the most is taming my tongue. Not necessarily in regards to saying mean things or gossiping - although I am not immune to such sin - but rather in seeking to control others’ perceptions and opinions of me through my use of words. Author Richard Foster describes this tendency for control in a chapter on ‘Solitude’ in his Christian Classic “The Celebration of Discipline.” He speaks of how we attempt to use our words to try to manage and control others. But by embracing the discipline of silence and solitude, and holding our tongues from meaningless, self-justifying speech, it allows God to step in and be our justifier. It allows him to care for us, reputation and all.
But do we trust God enough to believe He is capable of controlling our public image? Are we comfortable leaving that in his hands? It is a true and humbling realization to see just how closely related silence is to trust.
We have all been there: in those dark, lonely moments of injustice when our reputations feel tarnished by something that was not our fault. Maybe you were sinned against. Maybe you gained a label you thought you would never have to carry. Maybe you were falsely accused. It’s amazing how quickly one can find herself plummeted into the center of shame and humiliation without ever having done anything to deserve it.
And I’m sure Mary understood this feeling more deeply than most.
On the heels of being applauded for finding favor in the Lord’s eyes, being recognized for a life of long and consistent obedience, and being awarded a task of the highest honor, she is met with harsh rejection and slander from the world around her.
She had done nothing wrong, yet was tasked by God to carry the appearance of unfaithfulness to her future husband, and a pregnancy outside of wedlock.
She would have lost her reputation, feared losing her dream of a life with Joseph, and even feared losing her life. This was the kind of mistake that her culture made sure was not easily forgotten or left unpunished.
Yet we see no words spoken from Mary’s mouth in her own self-defense; no dissertation claiming her innocence and proclaiming the plan for Jesus’ arrival that God had revealed to her.
Rather, we see silence.
And my mind can’t help but drift to a similar circumstance which unfolded 33 years later, when Jesus stood accused in front of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:57-67), was questioned by Herod (Luke 23:9), and was charged by Pilot (Mark 15:5) yet remained silent in their presence, fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7,
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
I would give anything to know what was going through Christ’s mind as he heard all of the false accusations being made against Him, but I am confident that a few conclusions can be drawn from His silence:
1. He trusted fully in God’s plan.
2. He trusted fully in God to be His justifier.
3. He trusted fully that God’s way of justification in the future would be better than His in that moment.
4. He knew that defending His reputation in that moment was not the priority.
I am confident that Mary’s trust reflected these principles as well. I believe that as we begin to develop a trust in God’s plan, in how He chooses to do things, and in His timing, our priorities will begin to shift as well. As our priorities align with His will, and in our desire to be a part of the work He is doing in the world, we will genuinely be less concerned in our self-defense.
And we ought to be less concerned in our self-defense! Because God proves Himself as our best defender time and time again. Mary held her tongue, and continued to exude complete willingness to follow God’s call in her life, even when it meant losing so much of her reputation and expectations for what her life would look like. Even when it meant possibly losing Joseph.
Yet who do we see coming to her defense? The same angel appears to Joseph a short time later and confirms the miraculous call and immaculate conception in Mary’s life. The angel confirms Joseph’s calling as well. (Matthew 1:20-21)
And as we will see next week, God continues to provide all that Mary needs in the midst of a difficult task. While surrounded by judgement and slanderous whispers, we do not see a high priority placed on setting Mary’s reputation right, but we do see God moving in the hearts of other key participants in His plan. It started with Joseph, and it continued through the priceless friendship and Christ-Centered community of Elizabeth.
Do you trust God to be your justifier? Your defender? Do you trust that He knows what is best for You? Are you willing to lay down the priority of defending your name if it could help make Jesus’ name greater?