Below is a story from my dear friend and personal trainer, Rachel (she’s such a fabulous personal trainer, I only need to work with her once a year!).  I know you will love this story.  I’ve read it about five times and find myself praying that God will use this salvation story to give me eyes that see others, myself, and Him more clearly.

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Jesus said, “Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer.”

He flys right by and leaves a kiss upon her face

While the angels are singin’ his praises in a blaze of glory

Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place

– “Mary” by Patty Griffin



Lately, I have been thinking about my life, my past, and my story in the context of all of the rich stories God weaved throughout the narrative of Scripture.  I relate to many—I have been both of the prodigal brothers—the runaway and the proud and self-righteous one left behind.  I have been alone, scared, tempted, betrayed, and I have been the liar and the thief.  I have been Peter and lived in denial, and I have been the desperate woman grasping for the hem of Jesus’ garment.


It may seem odd, or even arrogant, to claim that I identify with the mother of Jesus, a woman set apart from any other, but also an ordinary, humble, everyday girl. God chose a teenager to birth His son, not a queen or a rich heiress, nor an established woman in society or with status.  There are many women in the Bible that fascinate me:  Rahab, Gomer, Esther.  Their stores are compelling indeed; God uses prostitutes even to His glory, continually calling us back from our own brothels, addictions, and idols.  God loves to take violated women and make them whole, to be the salve for every wound. Mary was different, though, an untainted and young woman, impregnated with the very son of God, the immaculate conception and virgin birth, a scandal of inconceivable ramifications.  The Catholic Church idolizes her, praying to her, creating statues of her to remember what a significant contribution she made to history, birthing the Savior of the world.  There are songs, prayers, entire books, devoted to Mary and her divine calling as the mother of Jesus. 


I never thought much about Mary until I was an unwed, pregnant, and scared teenager.  I found myself, at seventeen, thinking often about her and the circumstances with which God chose to bring His Son into the world.  I became pregnant in the most confusing of circumstances, in love with an older man who fed my starving heart.  In return, I offered him my body and in a short period of time, after missing that stain of blood red I knew would most surely deliver me from my predicament, my life forever changed.


No one wants to believe that the good Christian girls can get pregnant.  Only the weird girls at school who work at Walgreens and dye their hair black end up pregnant, the girls who barely have a 2.0 GPA and are living with their mom’s sister’s ex-husband because they got kicked out of the house.  I had signed a virginity pledge and kept a diary for my future husband, who I was certain would be a youth pastor with wavy hair and the ability to play the guitar and sing to me when asked. 


Instead, I had a passive and immature older boyfriend, who was scared that the law might prosecute him for impregnating a minor.  I had terrified parents who watched their college dreams and future hopes for me swirl down the toilet with my morning sickness.  An embarrassed school staff gladly allowed me to graduate early, never having to bare a growing belly amidst halls of endless lockers and pubescent body odor.  An astonished and awkward youth pastor gently suggested I consider adoption, because after all, how could a seventeen year old offer a child the kind of life that two loving parents could?  I had brothers too ashamed of their pregnant sister to have her at their birthday parties, and parents who would pull up to the curb of my boyfriend’s house to pick me up for Saturday night dinner, only to drop me off a few hours later at that same curb. 


I remember one day when I went on one of my regular walks, pregnant and bored, I travelled around neighborhoods and local shops.  I was scared and alone and praying—I knew I had made a mess out of things, but felt I deserved every ounce of shame and stigma cast my way.  I was the teenage, unwed, mother that was on welfare, costing responsible people money for my irresponsible decision to take my clothes off and cross my fingers.  I wondered how Mary must have felt, when the angel came to her and told her she would bear the son of God.  Surely, she must have been terrified.  Being unmarried, she wasn’t equipped to be a mother, in a culture that shunned and even stoned women for immorality.  In Luke, Chapter 1, the angel says to her, “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.”  The angel tells her not to be afraid, for she has found favor with God.  A young, unwed teenager had found favor with God—He had chosen her to bring into the world the Messiah that would seek and save the lost, the man who would later bleed and die for the sins of all humanity. 


Mary and I were completely different, though.  I knew God couldn’t have found favor with me.  I DESERVED my lot, my scarlet letter of stretch marks and swollen ankles, announcing to the world my propensity for premarital sex and ill-advised conception.  My parents legally emancipated me at seventeen, not finding favor with a daughter who would make such choices.  My Christian relatives offered the helpful suggestion that I only be allowed to stay in the basement of my parents’ home, and not ever “visit” the first and second floors, because I should always be reminded of the choices I made. 


I didn’t know how I was going to pay my hospital bills, or if I could fix the beautiful wooden rocking chair I had gotten at a thrift store to lull my newborn baby to sleep, but I began to realize that my relatives and friends and well-meaning pastors had gotten it all wrong.  If God had chosen a young, unwed mother to bear His Son, a woman who faced shame and stigma and confusion by all those she encountered, I knew He had chosen me to take my shame and stigma and confusion and write a bigger story.  Mary was blameless in her position, a vessel God used for His glory.  I was not blameless, but God wasn’t interested in that part of the story.  He wasn’t interested in what everyone else was—my sin, my rebellion, my deviance from “God’s will.”  He wasn’t interested in my unwed-ness, my wasted virginity, my null and void pledge to my future husband.  He wanted my heart.  He invited me to carry my shame and sin, my young tattered life, all the way to the Cross and to leave it there. 


He said to me, “Come, (Rachel) Are you tired? (I know you are) Worn out? (I know it’s hard to rest when you are exhausted and scared) Burned out on religion? (don’t listen to religious relatives who believe in locked up basements). Come to me.(I am here) Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.(your life matters to me) I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (grace has set you free) I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you., you who are weary and tired of wondering if you are good enough or ever will be. (you are enough. just as you are. ) –Mt. 11:28, The Message.


And, with those words, I knew that I could always come, just as I am, because what He really wants is just me.  The tender eyes of God mercifully finding favor in me, His daughter.  I am enough.  


               Just as I am, without one plea, 
               but that thy blood was shed for me, 
               and that thou bidst me come to thee, 
               O Lamb of God, I come, I come.