Leadership can feel isolating at times. Sometimes God issues a call upon our lives that no one else quite gets. It’s unique to us and doesn’t seem like a natural fit to our skill set, experience or gifting. And that’s because our God works in the supernatural and does the unexplainable.
This is why I love the friendship of Elizabeth and Mary. It’s the story of God’s unexplainable provision for their unique positions.
Seclusion, Isolation and Intersection
When Elizabeth discovered she was pregnant, she remained in seclusion. After years of barrenness, it’s no wonder. It doesn’t take too much imagination to piece together the speculation of her fellow villagers regarding her inability to have children. Infertility was thought to be a curse of God in those days.
At the opposite end of Israel, all the way to the north, another miraculous pregnancy is announced to young Mary by the angel Gabriel. She would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God. Talk about a call of isolation! Who on earth is going to understand this?
God in His great mercy, mentions Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy to Mary, giving her direction to process this news.
Luke’s gospel tells us Mary traveled with haste down south to Judea to Elizabeth’s home. Mary must have been terrified. Who would believe her? Would Joseph divorce her? She could be killed for presumed adultery against him.
It’s important to reflect on the fact that finding favor with God doesn’t always equate to the absence of fear. It usually means He’s calling us to the unexplainable, to something impossible apart from His power. To something beyond anything we could think, ask, imagine or hope for in our lives — and that means it’s going to be a little scary, and definitely outside our comfort zone or current skill set.
I’d say a virgin birth falls into those categories, wouldn’t you? Who could she go to talk to about this? Well, God in His great mercy answers Mary’s question. Go to your cousin Elizabeth. Talk to her. She will believe you. And when you begin to doubt yourself, Mary, the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb will remind you what I have told you.
And God brings the wondering woman in a call of isolation to the shamed woman in seclusion. And what we behold in their intersection is the beauty of God’s unexplainable provision: they danced around the room in joy!
Wisdom and Wonder
The older and wiser Elizabeth immediately speaks words of affirmation over young Mary. As one who had experienced years of reproach from the women in her village, she knew firsthand the shame and judgment Mary would face by those who doubted her call. In her experience of barrenness, she knew the pain and isolation that others’ rejection would bring. Mary, on the other hand, renewed Elizabeth’s wonder. She sang out a song of praise and prophesied regarding God’s faithfulness and future goodness in store for them. And together, in one another’s presence, fear faded and God’s praises were proclaimed.
God sent Mary to Elizabeth to share in the joy of her past-child-bearing-years pregnancy and also to glean from her wisdom. And Mary needed to know she wasn’t alone in this, humanly speaking. She had Elizabeth, who believed in her, accepted her and rejoiced with her at the work of God in her life.
Oh, how greatly we all need an Elizabeth, don’t we?
A co-laborer in ministry, whether it is in our homes or elsewhere.
Someone who believes in us when we stop believing in ourselves.
Someone who can remind us what God promised in our darkest hours.
For those of us who have been wounded by the seclusion and isolation of leadership- how our joy becomes renewed when we pour into young women full of wonder at the unexplainable ways of God! Our past pain and hard lessons become fortresses of safety, affirmation and wisdom to those who have miraculous calls before them. We can take them by the hand, speak words of affirmation and watch fear fade. We can learn to dance again.
Who is your Elizabeth?
Who is your Mary?
Ask God for His unexplainable provision for your position- whether it’s wisdom or renewed wonder.
The world needs more Elizabeths willing to share their wisdom.
The world needs more Marys walking in wonder at the goodness and mystery of God.
And heaven knows the world needs to a see a whole lot more women dancing with joy at the gift of one another’s greeting
My dear sisters, let’s listen to the song of the Spirit in our heart and go find our Mary and our Elizabeth.
From Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew by Erica Wiggenhorn- an 8 Week Bible Study covering the Gospel of Luke from Moody Publishers.