And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:37, The Message)
I’m not one who believes that there is one person out there for everyone. One true love. One best friend. One partner in crime. Instead, I think there are people to whom we say yes. Like Mary.
From what I can tell, most of us aren’t visited by angels when it happens. It’s more like we think the person we’re giving our yes to, is an angel. What makes that happen? What leads us to say yes? Is it the chemistry of our pheromones? Something the other says that makes us laugh? Might it simply be that in a given moment, they’re there? Or they say or do something that shows us they understand who we are in a way, we think, no one else ever has? Maybe it’s us too? Maybe we change. Maybe it’s just that, we’re ready. It’s a mystery to me.
Early, in my second year of college, I found myself with a pair of tickets to a concert. Who to take, I wondered. Should I ask Abigail? Zelda? Everyone in between? I thought it might take that. To my roommate, the answer was obvious. “You have to take Mary (not her real name). She’s already said yes.” “What are you talking about? She couldn’t have. I just got the tickets!” He smiled and asked, “When you go to the dining hall for breakfast, who do you eat with?” “Mary.” “Is she already there, or does she come and join you?” “Usually, she’s there. I walk in, and she’s there.” “Everyday or just once in a while?” he asked. “Every day.” “Every single day? Really?” “Yes.” “And dinner? What about dinner?” “I usually eat dinner with her too.” I paused. “Oh my God.” “Yeah,” he said. “I thought you’d never figure it out.”
I asked her. She said, “Yes.” And for the next four years we gave our yes, to each other.
Last night I watched the 2003 film, Love Actually. The film tells not one, or two, but eight different love stories. What I love most about the film is the way it captures the varied forms of awkwardness that falling in love, and giving your yes, entails. The awkwardness is always there, at least for me. And our inability to see mutual affection when it’s staring us in the face? The way I couldn’t with my Mary? That’s often part of it too.
For me, one of the wonders of the film is the way it spends time showing characters coming into the awareness that giving someone your yes, isn’t just about saying that one word, or the familiar three (I love you). It’s a response you give with your whole being. When you do that, this little three letter word, becomes everything. The orientation of your life changes, fundamentally. To me, that’s the wonder of Mary’s yes in the story of the Nativity. We are only told that she “pondered” the angels words, not what that looked like.
Recently, friends of mine adopted twins. When I learned this, I thought, “Wow! What courage!” And, also, “Oh my! I wonder if they have any idea of what they’re in for.” Babies… Women have them, and you bring them home. Or you birth them in a tub as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it is. There’s no test to pass. No class to take, or degree to obtain, in parenting. There are manuals, yes. Mostly, they don’t help. Fact is, most kids grow up thinking their folks are certifiable with good reason. We are learning as we go. Being a parent, takes courage every day. Mary, must have had a helluva lot of courage. Joseph too, for that matter. They did not know what they were in for. Like my friends, they both, said yes.
I often hear parents say that they live for their children. There is an obvious reason for that. Babies require so much care, that if we expect them to live, they have to become the center of our lives. Children live, and thrive, because people in their lives have the courage to say, yes. And by the way, for what it’s worth, I think the most honest book a new parent can read is Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions., It’s marvelous, honest and hilarious.
We’re one week away from Christmas. One week from celebrating love, actually coming into the world and dwelling in our midst. That baby, like all babies, asks us to to make him the center of our world. He asks us, for our yes. What does it look like for you to listen the way Mary did? What does it mean to take action, to give your yes? My guess, is that you won’t see any angel as you ponder these questions. If you do, it’ll be in the form of a friend or a stranger unexpectedly meeting a need you didn’t know you had.
I lied earlier. I do that, more often than I like to admit. There is one person out there for everyone. One true love. “Do not be afraid” about giving him your yes. This babe, born in a manger, has already given you, his.