There are some things in life that are so good they are difficult to accept. It’s like when a friend gets you a gift that is out-of-this-world better and more expensive than anything you’d ever buy for yourself, and as you unwrap that gift you have two choices: you can revel in the goodness of the blessing, or refuse the gift because it’s overwhelmingly too good to be true.
For the first few days of my trip in Israel, I was grappling with my own insufficiency and the incredulousness of the opportunity to walk on Israeli soil. I really struggled to take the gift that was given to me. I am not prepared enough to be here. I haven’t studied the Bible enough. I am not a good enough Christian to be here. I struggle too much. Brooding thoughts of inadequacy consumed me—until I got to Nazareth.
Although I had been doing my best to relish in my trip —taking scrupulous notes, snapping touristy photos, pausing for occasional meditation—nothing was quite as spiritually palpable before we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Inside this grand Catholic Church was a small stone room in which an angel told Mary of her supernatural pregnancy. Two millennia ago, Mary stood a few steps from where I did and felt the burden of inadequacy herself: she was going to give birth to a Savior.
I’m willing to bet that Mary didn’t have a clue about all that the future would hold for her and her little Boy. Though she was a Jewish woman who likely knew what God’s Word said about the Messiah, she wasn’t given any secret manual titled, Child-Rearing of the Christ: Discipline, Play Dates with Sinners, and the Worship of Your Own Child. I can hear myself in her shoes now: Who do you think you are, [Mary]? You think God chose you to do this? How are you supposed to raise a kid to save the world?
But what did Mary do? Instead of turning the focus to her flaws and her doubts, she spotlighted the glory of God Almighty and His faithfulness.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name…”
Mary took the gift God gave her and ravished every last bit of goodness that came with it. (She praises God for six more verses in addition to the ones that I cited.)
Just like Mary, as I stood in that basilica and pondered the faithfulness of God, my heart could no longer be silent in the midst of glory. Like a soundtrack, I heard the song How Marvelous begin to play in my soul:
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
O how marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone…
I put it on repeat in my brain for the rest of the week. With a renewed sense of wonder, The Sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Resurrection tomb jumped off the pages of my Bible and into my heart.
The reason for my insecurity—in Israel and in everyday life—isn’t because I’m lacking where others are not, I realized; it’s because my focus is on myself (the receiver) rather than on the goodness of the Giver. From Nazareth to Jerusalem to the rest of my summer, God had reminded me of a great truth: His presents are hardly ever exactly what I want, expect, or deserve, yet He is still the best gift-giver.
How marvelous is that?