Something from the message at our church on Saturday night has really stuck with me. It revolved around the risk that Mary took of accepting God's plan of bringing Jesus into the world.
I keep thinking about the many people who have become admired throughout history for the great things they have done. But, many of those things were done by taking a very big risk. They didn't know how it would turn out. Some of the ones I was thinking about on my run today:
*Christopher Columbus and the many explorers to the 'New World.' What if it turned out the world was as flat as a pancake and they fell off the end of it? There was a chance they would never come back. That was a risk they were willing to take.
*George Washington and the entire American Revolution. What if it failed? How would the British deal with these 'rebels.' They would probably be put to death as traitors. That was a risk they were willing to take because they believed in their cause.
*Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The easy thing to do would have been to let the south secede and not make slavery a major issue. But, he took a risk and stood up to that and kept this nation together. Imagine how different things would be today in the United States if he didn't believe it was a nation worth keeping as one.
*The astronauts on the first space mission. What if they couldn't get back to earth? They would never see their families or friends again. They would be lost in space.
*Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement. They withstood many negative things to stand for their equality and freedom. They didn't know how it would turn out. Martin Luther King ended up dying for the cause.
*Countless numbers of scientists and inventors who placed their entire lives and financial savings into a product. There were many failures along the way. They didn't know if it would succeed or fail and they would ever make any money.
All turned out well in these scenarios. However, in all of those situations, gigantic decisions were made without any assurance that it would turn for the positive. They took major risks. They believed. It's easy to look back and say they made the right choice, but that's hindsight. At the time when they made that decision, they didn't know how it would turn out. It's like watching a movie for a second time, you know how it's going to turn out. You have a lot more ease when the character is making the decision because you know it's going to turn out good in the end.
Mary believed. You can read the account in the first Chapter of Luke in the Bible. To boil it down, she was engaged but not married and is told by and angel that she is pregnant by God. The consequences of an unmarried female being pregnant were very bad in that times, potentially punishable by death. On top of that, if her life was spared, she would face ridicule and looks every day as she went about her daily routine.
But she was willing to endure all of that and trust in God. In verse 38 of Luke 1, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant." She was willing to trust God and follow God. I admire Mary and the many other risk-takers throughout history. Their willingness to take a risk in spite of potentially negative results did not dissuade them from making their decision. They did not know how it would turn out, but believed anyway that it would turn out for the good. That is faith.
The closest thing I can think that we've done is that we decided to leave Grad School at Virginia Tech after only one semester. I was there to continue towards my PhD (after a BS and MS in engineering at Penn State) and Beth was starting grad school after a very successful undergraduate career. Up to this point, we each had just met each obstacle in life and achieved in it. Success came with most everything we did to that point. However, this was different. It just didn't seem like the right fit. We weren't sure if we should continue, but we had always continued to that point.
We made the choice of moving back to Pennsylvania after only one semester at the risk of altering our planned career paths. Looking back now, I'd say things have turned out well with my getting into teaching and coaching and Beth's work at the hospital and triathlons. But, at that point, you could only put it in God's hands and see what was in store. There were many unknowns. No jobs waiting for us back in PA. No assurances on what we would do next. But, we trusted God that it was the right decision and we went with it. And, it turned out well.
So in closing on this very scattered ramble, I hope that each of us can be like Mary and willing to trust God and take a risk without knowing how it's going to turn out. It's scary to have that unknown staring you in the face. You may fail, but things could turn out better than you ever imagined. It sure did for Mary (and the rest of mankind as a result).
Now onto some lighter topics. In other news...
*Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year. I don't like playing the Christmas music too soon because then you get tired of it when Christmas arrives. But, it is now only 5 days away. So, I cued up my Christmas playlist for my run this morning and was loving it. I think it put an extra hop in my step.
*We're heading south for Christmas to visit Beth's parents. Looking forward to the nice weather!
*For the spring semester at school, I am going to be working with a student teacher. I had a chance to meet her today and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. This is my first chance to work with a student teacher, so I hope over the last 8 years I've learned a thing or two that I can pass on. Hopefully it's more than just "don't do what I just messed up."
*One of the great things of being a teacher is seeing students come back to visit. Several were at track practice today and it's great to hear their stories about how college went, how they're acclimating to the new environment, and (most importantly) how prepared the felt in their college math courses!!!! But on a serious note, it is rewarding to see that your investment in a student has paid off, whether that was academically, athletically, or simply as a human being.
*So far I'm 1-2 on the bowl picks. Just sayin'. Mediocre (or worse) here I come.
*If you're looking for a way to make a difference this holiday season, would you consider helping me support the Running for Laptops charity? I'm working with them as I prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Their mission is to raise funds to supply students who 'age out' of the foster care system with laptops as they move on to their next endeavor. If you could find it in your heart to help out (even if it's just $5, that adds up too!), you can click the link here.
Merry Christmas to all! Remember that Jesus, not gifts, is the reason for the season!