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Mine or Yours?

‘May it be to me according to your word’, says Mary when Gabriel greets her with the news of her pregnancy (Luke 1:26-38). At this point, she cannot be certain how Joseph will respond, or how the news will be taken by her neighbours, or even whether she will survive. She was placing her life, and her unborn baby’s life, literally into God’s hands, in trust. There were also implications which may not have reached her mind at the point of her agreement: implications for her future life, for any more children she might have, for her relationship with her oldest child, for that child’s relationship with Joseph. Implications as to how, exactly, she was to go about bringing up this special child. This was life changing news, and Mary’s response is to give herself totally over to God. A givenness which was not a one-off response, but which must have meant further and deeper ‘givenness’ as her life went on. Mary’s acceptance of God’s message was a lifetime’s work.


It must have been the same for Joseph; reached in a dream, he too takes the angel’s message seriously, and takes Mary as his wife, raising Jesus as his son (Matthew 1:18-25). While there is no speech of acceptance of God’s will, Joseph’s actions speak louder than words. There is no need of a ‘yes’, because his ‘yes’ is in his response to the dream, and of his subsequent actions in caring for both Mary and Jesus; culminating in that episode of Jesus’ childhood, when Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem, causing both Mary and Joseph to spend days looking for him (Luke 2:41-52). The Bible says no more of Joseph after this incident, but there is no reason to suppose that his initial ‘yes’ was not followed through by a deeper commitment to the end of his life. Joseph, too, gave himself up to follow God’s will.

 

Fast forward to the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42 and parallels). Jesus’ life was bound in givenness to God, before he was even conceived. Both his parents must have had to follow that throughout their lives. Earlier in his life, Jesus’ himself had times when he was faced with a similar call: his baptism and temptations come to mind. Yet, here in the garden, he is at the very end. He knows what is coming: that his ministry is over; that, now, all that his life has been about is coming to its’ culmination. He does not want it, yet he knows he must accept it. In the garden, alone, having left even Peter, James and John behind, he falls to the ground. He does not want this; he knows his Father can take the cup from him. Yet, still, he prays: ‘not what I want but what you want’. Your will be done. May it be to me according to your word. Then, having prayed, without the support of the sleeping disciples, he rises and turns to meet his betrayer, following his words with action. He hands himself totally over to his Father’s will, and now what happens, will happen. His life ends as it began: with a givenness to the will of God.

 

Yet all that doesn’t really apply to us, does it? Mary and Joseph were specially chosen, they were saints, far beyond the lot of you and me. As for Jesus: well, yes, of course he struggled in Gethsemane, but he was the Son of God. He was always going to follow the Father’s will. We cannot be expected to follow those paths. We’re only human, after all. Except … isn’t the point that they were also human? Except … isn’t the point that we are supposed to follow Jesus? That, actually, in believing, we, too, are saying ‘your will, not mine, be done’. In a way that should affect how we act, as well as what we say. Isn’t that the point? That our commitment to doing the will of God should be as deep as was that of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

 

It is easy to think that we have done this; it is easy to give lip service to doing the will of God. We have done this: the big moment, the commitment when we say ‘yes’ to God, however that looks in our own life; we pray regularly and go to church, so we don’t have to go any deeper. We don’t have to go any further. Unfortunately, that is not true. We may well have had the moment when we decide, once and for all, that we are going to follow God, just as Mary and Joseph did. Yet, just like them, that ‘big moment’ is not a one-off. It may well be the start of a journey, or a significant milestone along the way. It may well be something we remember and celebrate. But the whole commitment is something of a wider nature; it is something that needs pondering, acting upon, and continually re-deciding, re-giving.

 

It’s possible that there may be more than one ‘big moment’ of decision in our lives. Still, those big moments, crucial as they may be, are only part of the story. The decision to follow Jesus, the decision that God’s will, not ours, be followed, is something that we can be pondering on, and acting upon, in each moment of our days. Our lives are no longer our own, but God’s. That includes every day. There may be some bigger decisions, but it will be the little moments of each day that shape our attitude more and more to ‘your will be done’. How we respond to our neighbour; who we speak to on the way to work; what we wear, how we eat. How we respond to those we love and live with; how we react to the more irritating members of our church, or workplace; how we react when the vicar does away with a cherished part of church life; what we read, what we watch. All the basic decisions of our lives can be taken with the attitude of ‘your will’ or ‘my will’.

 

Now, I am not suggesting that we spend much time each morning contemplating what we are wearing or what to have for breakfast; many of these decisions are ones that we do not take every day, that are habitual, and need to be if we are to live our lives without becoming over-burdened. Neither am I suggesting that there is a right or wrong way to follow God’s will in our daily lives; there isn’t a stated path where one way is ‘spiritual’ and another ‘worldly’. There are many decisions we take that would put ourselves first, and God may be cheering us on, saying ‘yes, you really need that’.  It isn’t something to get stressed over. It is much more an underlying attitude: which do I put first – my will or God’s will? There may be minor decisions that we make where we could pray ‘your will be done’ – and leave it at that trusting that it will be done. Neither is it something we will always get right – rather it is something that we may regularly get wrong. We may well learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Just to confuse things, we may never truly know how far and how much we have followed God’s will. It just isn’t that easy. It is the willing seeking after God’s will, not just in the big moments of life, but in the small details. It may be that our journey is far more about the seeking than the succeeding. Moreover, it is primarily not about ‘getting it right’, but ‘getting love’; underlying all those ‘your will not mine’ is a God who loves us and who wants us to follow Jesus into that relationship of deep and ever deeper love. 

 

 

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