I was always “the smart one” in school, the one expected to go far. One of my high school teachers even insisted I was a future Rhodes scholar. Although I didn't fulfill her dream and go to Oxford, I did complete six years of higher education, and then worked for several years in an intellectually stimulating environment. And now.... I answer the phones. Even though most days I like my job, there are times when I wonder what I'm doing. This week I found myself crying to God, asking why He gave me this mind and educational opportunities only to end up answering phones. Why does it feel like I am squandering my potential? Will I ever have another job that's intellectually fulfilling? What if it takes us longer than we assume to have children, and I end up spending years and years doing routine admin work? Why don't things work out the way I plan them?
Fear is really at the heart of all these questions, and some of those fears are pretty shameful. I'm afraid of being dependent on another person. I'm afraid that people will look down on me because of my job. I'm afraid I'll lose my sharp wits and become dull, or that I'll never cut it in a domestic role. Most of all, I'm afraid because I don't understand God's plan for me.
What I'm realizing in my Bible reading this week, is that Christmas, far from being a feel-good jolly time, is actually full of these kind of fears and questions. There are so many questions in the Christmas story. Zechariah and Elizabeth wonder why the Lord has not blessed them with a child. Mary asks “But why me?” and “But how can this happen when I am a virgin?” Joseph asks what he should do about Mary's situation, and how they will manage the probable scandal of the pregnancy. They both wonder how come they have to go to Bethlehem at this inopportune time, and when the Jesus finally comes, they must have wondered how in the world they were going to raise the Messiah. The shepherds in turn wonder what is going on and why they are the ones blessed to be able to see the Messiah. And in the background, the whole nation of Israel is asking, “But when, Lord, when will the Messiah come?”
Our fears and questioning, far from taking us away from God, actually lead us towards Him as we seek answers and comfort from Him. We can know that we are not alone in not knowing the game plan or being confused; in fact, we're probably in good company with most of the people in Bible. We can marvel at the lowly carpenter and his wife who chose, in the midst of their fears, to obey God and find joy in His plan. And we can enjoy the presence of the One who knows all the answers (even if we don't understand them all).
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Merry Christmas, from our little family to yours!!