She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that (Luke 1:29, MSG)
As the early entry into the biblical ‘Christmas Story’, Mary found herself greeted with a confronting truth. The angel Gabriel welcomed her with “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out!” (Luke 1:28, MSG). What a foreign greeting! Mary was simply going about her normal life. While her fear could be attributed to the presence of a supernatural being, I take solace it related to the very words that addressed her inherent worth. In the ordinary of life, and in the realm of form and function, it is easy to lose ‘self’ in the acts of service and established role identities. It’s even easier to lean on others to validate our self-worth. Likewise to feel worthless, even for a moment, could be as nearby as the next comment made to or about us.
Marianne Wilson famously wrote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.….We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us [which is what Mary was literally being asked to do]. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others” (A Return to Love, 1992). On occasions we get a taste of our self-worth through the gracious words of the discerning, or in extraordinary moments in life. Less often, we get interrupted with an inner-voice that reveals to us our immense beauty. While the moment doesn’t go unnoticed, to continue to live the reality of our worthiness can “frighten us” so we retract. Brene Brown calls this “foreboding joy”.
Fear remains the resident internal state that hides our “inner beauty”. When fear has hold on us, we generally turn to form and function so others may penetrate our insecure selves and tell us of our worthiness. Thank goodness that our nearest and dearest find ways to insult our sensibilities for it would be convenient to build addictions around outside-in validation crutches. What would it be like to awaken on Christmas morning and take ownership of the words “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out!” Can you imagine living the reality of those words in your ordinary every day? Doing so would be to live out the truth of who you are!