Text: Luke 1:39-56
When I was sixteen, my family moved from a large town in New York to a one-stoplight town in South Carolina. Overnight, my life transformed. I’d spent years building my reputation in New York as a good student and a leader. Suddenly in South Carolina, the only label that seemed to matter was that I was “new.” I wouldn’t be elected to any student council positions or honor societies. I wouldn’t be captain of any team sports. My entire identity—everything I’d planned to put on my resume for college—had disappeared.
Mary experienced a similar loss when an angel appeared to her in Nazareth.The first thing we learn about Mary is that she is a virgin, which makes sense. In Mary’s time, the primary indicator of a woman’s worth was her virginity. If you were a virgin, you were valuable. If you gave away your virginity, well, you forfeited everything you had to offer, and you no longer had value to your family or the world around you.
To Mary, this probably didn’t feel like oppression. To Mary, it probably felt like she had played by the rules. She had a good life, a good reputation. She was about to be married to a man from a good family, with a good job as a carpenter. Being a virgin wasn’t just a state of Mary’s anatomy or past experience; it was her whole identity.
Then God showed up. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The angel then described what would happen next: she would conceive a son. She would name Him Jesus and He would be great—a King, enthroned forever. Naturally, Mary would have interpreted everything the angel said through the lens of her own identity. That’s why the first question out of her mouth was about her virginity: “How will this happen since I have not been intimate with a man?” (Luke 1:34). She feared the answer she was about to hear. Her Son would be great, but in the eyes of the world, she no longer would be.
Sometimes God strips away our worldly identities in the process of giving us heavenly ones. Mary became mother to Mercy, and womb to the Way, the Truth and the Life. That the world might shun her, shame her, or disregard her didn’t change the fact that God called her highly favored (Luke 1:28). In Christ, we’re favored too (Ephesians 1:3).
Trusting God with my identity means remembering His faithfulness throughout all generations, and being so confident in His love and favor that I am willing to lose what I call valuable in exchange for what He calls good. At sixteen, He took my obsession with leadership and replaced it with an awareness of my need for friendship. At twenty-nine, God is using my infertility to breathe new life into my relationships, friendships, and marriage. Anything is possible with God. The world may value its labels, but God does different math.
Perhaps, like Mary, you are in a season where God is taking away one identity to give you a new one. Would you dare trust him to do the math of value in your life? Would you dare to hear Him whisper your name?
Over time, as she saw the Lord working, Mary’s confusion turned to worship. “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” she sang (Luke 1:49). May God also draw from us a response of praise as we wait expectantly for Him.
Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.