In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said 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.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.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “”Let it be to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
We sat around the table eating pizza and calzones and reminiscing about our time at Candler and being the “weirdo non-Methodists,” and someone said “so how did you end up at Candler?”
So we all told our stories.
All the stories kind of looked the same.
I had this plan, they all started. I had this idea about what I wanted.
I knew exactly what school I was gonna go to.
…and then God…
For me? My plan was Boston College. Home turf. The ocean. Friends and family. Free ride. Extra free money.
And who the hell wants to live in the South?
So when the Spirit moved and pushed me to Atlanta and Candler School of Theology, it sure sounded like a Divine No to me. All I saw was what I had planned out, and the maps that I had meticulously printed, and my own dreams and my own imagination. And the Spirit said “no” to those dreams and plans, pretty firmly. In that moment? All I could see were the plans and maps that God was lighting on fire and throwing in a bonfire pit.
But the Spirit wasn’t primarily saying No at all.
The “no” was just making way for a Divine Yes – a Yes to larger, more spacious places that I could never have dreamed up out of my own cramped, starved imagination.
When I finally gave my half-hearted “yes” to what I perceived as a “no”? That small, tentative yes joined the Divine Yes, and God breathed to life new things that were so much better than what I wanted to hold on to.
But God is not in the business of passing out miserable no’s in the face of our own happiness. God is a creator, not a destroyer. God is a builder, not a demolisher. God is a composer, and a writer, and a painter, and God’s creative work in our lives begins not with a no but with a Divine Yes, that looks like a no because we haven’t yet seen what God’s Divine Imagination is about to create.
So here we sit at the crossroads, waffling between choosing our own imagination and between submitting to the imagination of the Divine –
and on the days when I’m brave enough to burn my map and go off road – when God grants me the clarity to see a potential Divine Yes where all I can see with fallible eyes is a “no” – when I’m brave enough to say, with Mary, “let it be to me according to your word” –
The creation that God’s imagination sings to life is beautiful.