Mary. The mother of God. The Sinless one. The Holy one. The Blessed Virgin. History has painted Mary as perfect. Having a Queen in Heaven who advocates on our behalf has been remarkably helpful for countless women. Since I was not brought up with religion, however, I have only the Scriptures to define what the mother of Jesus was like. Regardless of how history has framed her, the perfect Word reveals she is more like us than we might imagine.
According to Luke, she was a girl from Nazareth and a virgin engaged to be married to a carpenter. Reading her famous Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) reveals that the history of her people and her God were seared on Mary’s heart. Many have claimed that she was blessed with being the mother of the Messiah because of her purity, reverence and holiness. Certainly she was highly favored with God, in the words of the angel Gabriel. But let’s read what Elizabeth, her dear friend, exclaimed upon hearing Mary was pregnant with the Christ: Blessed is she who. Remains a virgin forever? Never sins? Never questions God? Memorizes Scripture? No, Elizabeth cried out some of the most profound words women claim in all of Scripture: Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Blessed is she who has believed.
When the angel Gabriel first approached her, Mary was greatly troubled. And when he told her that she would be the mother of the Son of God, she definitely questioned it. How could this be, for I am a virgin? She asked.
Nothing is impossible with God, the angel told Mary.
Mary answered with the words God must long to hear from all of us: I am the Lord’s servant, she responded, “May it be to me as you have said.” And as any woman would do, she hurried to tell a friend. She and Elizabeth excitedly exchanged news, and Mary broke out in her song of praise, the Magnificat: “From now on all generations will call me blessed”.
Unfortunately women over time have felt disconnected from Mary. She has seemed too perfect. We cannot relate to someone who never sinned and whose son never sinned. History’s framing of her as an eternal virgin is just too unrelatable. And yet, the Scriptures reveal that not only did she bear more children, but that she also needed a Savior: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, she said. She was as human and as in need of God as the rest of us. What is different about her, in the angel’s words, is that she was highly favored with God. This is the part that draws me to her, because I ( like most of us) want blessing and favor with God.
Like Abraham, Mary’s faith was credited to her as righteousness. It wasn’t that she did everything right – in fact at the wedding at Cana she got on Jesus’ nerves a bit as she attempted to nudge him into public ministry. Later, while the crowds pushed against him, she sent someone in to get him, but he disregarded her call, remaining with the people who needed to hear his teaching most. Nevertheless, she was there outside the door (confused and afraid most likely) but ever faithful.
At Jesus’ baby dedication at the temple, the prophet Simeon turned to Mary and said that Jesus’ life would cause the rise and fall of many, and a sword would pierce her own soul too. At the cross, these words became an ominous foretelling of their fate: before her eyes her son was beaten and crucified by the very people he came to save. The child who had been born in her arms had grown into a man spat upon and despised by so many. Knowing he was God’s one and only Son must have caused her immeasurable sorrow. But when nearly all his disciples had run away in terror, faithful Mary remained at the foot of the cross until he gasped his last breath. Even after Jesus had returned to the Father, she gathered with all the believers in prayer.
The fact that she believed does not mean that she didn’t question, didn’t doubt, didn’t grieve and worry. But the fact that she believed was the source of her blessedness. The good news for us is that Scriptures show no evidence of her perfection, only her faith. 1 Peter 3:5 says the women of the past used to make themselves beautiful by putting their hope in God. To me, this is what makes Mary so beautiful: her hope.
Sometimes I want so badly to do something great. I see the suffering in the world and I want to solve it. But then I remember Mary. She simply opened herself as a vessel of His Spirit. Despite all questions, she believed. She allowed Christ to come inside of her, dwell and grow within her, literally. And from that faith was born the hope of the world.
What are you questioning God about right now? What makes you doubt? What makes you worry? Remember Mary. Open your heart as she opened her womb. Allow God’s plans to grow within you. Trust Him. From your faith great things can come. For it is only in the growth of His Spirit within us that real miracles are born. And through us, yes, God can touch suffering – and heal it.
Blessed is she who has believed.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”