mary's song.

(sunday afternoon commentary) 
jessi: i have no blogs in my head at all. i usually write all my blogs for the week on sunday and i have no ideas. 
nick: what about today's sermon?
jessi: that feels too big to write about.
nick: then you should do it. 
you know, to wrap your brain around it. 

Today Pastor Mark unpacked Mary's song from Luke. I think I've read this dozens of times, hoping something jumps out at me and yet it's always felt so far & un-relatable. 

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He is who mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has strength in His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever. 

Ok, let me back up. I think we were both in college when my sister lovingly told me, "when you can't win at something - you take your ball & go home". Unfortunately, she was totally right and those words have been an encouragement to me over the years. I have a massive problem with not trying things if I believe I'll fail or just literally crumbling when I am perceived to be imperfect. What a joke, right? Because I know I'm not perfect. Trust me, I KNOW I'm not perfect. My best friends know I'm not perfect. My family knows I'm very, very, very far from perfect. But there has always been this thing in my heart that shuts down when I know I can't master something or when I know I can't control my own competency - I back away. 

For the most part, motherhood has helped shake this up. I don't look the best, I'm not the best mom or wife I know, and being at Mars Hill has provided countless examples of women who truly excel and have no need to compete so I've been content to learn and watch and not be the best or have something to add or teach. The Lord has given me peace in a season of learning and growing and that became my focus and I have truly, truly loved it. 

But old problems die hard, right? In the past few weeks, I've felt something just crumbling at the core. I've wanted to run out of rooms filled with friends, replayed dumb things said or not said, and have battered myself mentally night after night for bad decisions. When I let those images float past one after the other in my head, I can see clearly now the look on my face was consistent with the sin in my heart - shame. This season has truly just been a massive storm in our lives - with the rain pelting against us and the wind never. letting. up. God has been so good and so big and so real to us - but I'm afraid that part is sometimes just for us to see and just for us to praise Him for. So what I end up feeling like the world sees, is us - battered and wet and tired and red in the face. Clinging to one another and feebly raising our wrinkled hands to Him. 

So, back to Mary's song. 
When Pastor Mark started speaking, I said in my heart (a little louder than normal) what I normally say in response to verses like these. "This doesn't apply to you because you're not Mary - you're not that Holy. You haven't been faithful for all time & you're just not the same." I suppose my selfish, sinful heart usually says these lines much quieter - but today it was loud enough that it jolted me and I questioned it for the first time in a while. No, I'm not Mary. But she was sinful. I have not endured these trials perfectly or this life with complete praise, but I don't believe she did either. And surely, Pastor Mark wouldn't be offering these words as an option for us if we were ineligible. 

Because the thing is - I believe the parts about the goodness of God. 
He has looked on my humble estate, check. 
Done great things for me, definitely. 
My Savior - absolutely. 

But is His mercy for me? 
Am I one of the humble ones? 
Or am I the desperate woman begging for forgiveness & running in shame when it's granted. 

These are hard, big things to begin to wrap my brain around it but I have a feeling I'm not the only woman who tries to discount herself for the reach of God's grace and mercy. Moreover, it takes so much faith and self-denial to swallow whole the fact that we will never be worthy of praising Him and yet, He enables us to do it anyhow. So the past few months have been really hard. I can't dress that up or sweep it under the table and oh, goodness - I'd like too. 
But here is my song: 

No matter what comes, Lord - we will praise You.
If this is the smallest or largest storm we encounter for the rest of our lives, we will praise You. You have literally, never not held us. Never not provided. Never not loved. 
You sustain our hearts when the world fails us and when we fail. 
You wipe the shame from my face when humility, self-sufficiency, & pride get too confused & mingled and I can't distinguish where I stand. 
Where my weakness begins, your strength endures and carries on. 
Not only did you save my soul and give the gift of life, but you've given each good gift. 
Such good gifts. 
And if you took them back, you would still be Good. 
I pray that the generations to come would call me Blessed, never because of what I had to offer - but because of all that you gave. 
Amen.