Mary’s Encounter with Gabriel*
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”**
My heart stops for the span of a breath before resuming at an accelerated pace. The shining messenger of heaven is talking to me! I’m pretty sure he’s got the wrong girl, but I’m afraid to say so. I don’t feel at all favored; as the middle child and teen daughter of a large, poor Jewish family under the oppression of the Romans, I am, in many ways, quite insignificant.
Often I pray for the Lord to be with me, but I know I am not good at obeying all of His laws and fear He is displeased with me. Besides, strange men do not speak to women but ignore them completely. What can this angel mean to be here talking to me in such a manner, as if I were a prophetess?
He speaks, seeming to read my thoughts: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
The … the Son of the Most High? My mind reels. God Himself wants me to be the mother of our long-awaited Messiah and king?
For the shining messenger knows my name; it can’t be a mistake. But that’s impossible! I’m physically ineligible to be a mother. Swallowing, I gather the nerve to speak.
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
TCKs Often Feel Ill-Equipped
Okay, so maybe Gabriel didn’t come to you glowing brightly with a message from God. Still, there may be things that you know God is calling you to do that you just don’t feel qualified, equipped, or gifted for. As TCKs, when we are surrounded by people who lived in the same place their whole lives and are confident in their nationality, we are often keenly aware of our weaknesses.
Perhaps you are dealing with complex grief or trauma from the accumulated loss that moving has brought you. The fear of change may cling to you tightly, as well as the deep need for roots somewhere. Maybe you struggle with understanding your identity, your place in society, or where you belong. Perhaps the realization that you don’t understand cultural references in your passport country has you intimidated.
Or, quite simply, you may feel too young, untalented, inexperienced, timid, ill-equipped, underqualified, untrained, needy, or sinful to do whatever it is you think God wants you to do.
Other people do this better. Doing that seems impossible to you. Or maybe you don’t even know what your gift is.
But we serve a God who is so much bigger than you or me. Isn’t it actually prideful to tell God what you can or can’t do, as if He doesn’t know better than you? Hasn’t He promised to equip us for every good work? How, then, can you say no to Him?
So when God calls you to do the impossible, how can you respond?
1. Don’t Project Your Perception of “Possible” Onto God
In Luke chapter 1, six months before going to Mary, the angel Gabriel brought a message to her elderly cousin Zechariah, telling him that his wife Elizabeth would have a son. By now, they were past the age of childbearing.
Zechariah served as a priest in the sanctuary of the Lord. As a priest, he was far more familiar with the Scriptures than Mary; he certainly knew the story of Abraham and Sarah and the miracle God had done there as well as in countless other places. The Bible tells us that Zechariah and his wife were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6 ESV, emphasis added). In every way, Zechariah should have been equipped, ready, and filled with faith and anticipation for God to act.
So logically, when given the good news he would have a prophet-son, Zechariah said to Gabriel, “Praise the Lord! I can’t wait to hold my son John!” Right?!
Instead, what did he say? “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18 NIV, emphasis added).
As if God didn’t know Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s ages! He had placed Zechariah in the position to receive and raise a gift from Him, and what was the priest’s response? Essentially, “You’ll have to show me a sign, God, because that’s impossible.”
When Sarah laughed at the idea of having a baby at 90 years old, the angel of the Lord rebuked her, saying, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14 ESV) So, too, did Gabriel rebuke and even punish Zechariah for his lack of faith.
From a human standpoint, of course, Zechariah’s reasoning is as logical as anyone’s. In history, science, and lived experience, old people don’t get pregnant and have kids. But when God is involved, it’s a different thing entirely.
Ultimately, what Zechariah expressed was that he didn’t trust God. He, who knew God’s Scriptures so well! He was essentially saying, “Sorry, God, I obviously don’t have the ability to do that. And my lack of ability is too great for You to overcome.”
How prideful! And yet, how often do we say this to God?
2. Remember That God Equips His People
Your Creator isn’t looking down at you right now thinking that you’re a failure, useless, a burden, or simply boring, untalented, not able to serve until later on. No indeed! The Lord, the Maker of the universe and of everything on this green earth, He who is perfect and good and does everything for a reason, created you (Ps. 139).
God does not make mistakes. He does nothing accidentally. The Lord does not forget any details. Rather, He equips you for every good work in Christ through His word and Holy Spirit.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26–29 ESV, emphasis added
God wants to do great things through you. He has gifted you. All you have to do is trust and obey.
3. Say Yes To God
If you find yourself saying of some ministry, work, or talent which God is leading you toward, “I can’t do that,” remember what the angel said to Mary’s sincere and legitimate question of how:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” And then, Gabriel even gives her proof of God’s power saying, “Behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35–37 ESV, emphasis added).
Nothing is impossible with God. Who are you to tell Him no? He will send you His Holy Spirit to gift you for whatever it is He asks you to do.
When God directs us, rather than responding like Zechariah, may we answer in the humility and faith like Mary, ready to give to God that which He has given us:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 ESV
I know you may not feel like a Mary. “But she was special. Only one person in all of history was the mother of Jesus.” Have you forgotten Gideon? Moses? Barak? Jeremiah? Or all the other people in the Bible? Most of them were nobodies. Or, at least, they felt like they were. Yet God called them to higher things, performing miracles through them. All they did was say yes, sometimes weakly! Gideon asked for proof from God; Moses pleaded not being able to speak.
Don’t you see that every person feels underqualified? “I am too young,” Jeremiah told God. And what did God say?
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Jer. 1:7–8 ESV
And then God touched his mouth, saying, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9 ESV).
If your Lord and Creator is prompting you to do something, who are you to say no?
When God calls you to do the impossible, He always provides His Spirit of power to help you do it.
*This is an imaginative retelling from Luke 1:26–38 about what Mary’s encounter with the angel may have been like. The spoken parts are directly quoted from Scripture (NIV) but the details of Mary’s thoughts and her first person narrative are from the author’s imagination.
**All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
TCKs for Christ: Newsletter Manager
is a TCK from America who spent half of her childhood in Indonesia along with her parents and seven younger siblings. She’s passionate about learning new things and seeing the beauty in differences. In her free time, she likes to read, play board games, talk, laugh, write poetry, joke, and meet new people. She’s also a student at Moody Bible Institute, working towards her bachelor’s in Linguistics and Teaching English. Connect with her social media handle, @Godisgraciousx2.