Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38).
I have always struggled with control. Ever since I can remember, wondering how others perceive me in my relationships, personal appearance, career, and even my vocation has consumed my thoughts, placing the way others see me at the forefront of my mind. My desire to appear a certain way — whether that was humorous and lighthearted around my friends, overachieving and disciplined in school, or completely put together at work — always seemed to come first, leaving my soul weak and my confidence fragile. As control in all of these areas of my life became impossible to maintain, I realized that worrying about what others thought of me made it impossible to experience joy. My identity relied completely on certainty.
On a morning when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, I turned to Scripture in the hopes that I would find solace in Jesus’ words — something I had not done for quite some time. I have always been drawn to passages about the Blessed Mother, and remember flipping through the pages to find her Annunciation. Although I was familiar with the final verse of Chapter One of Luke’s Gospel, I had never framed Mary’s humble response to the Annunciation within the need for control in my own life. Mary’s fiat, or acceptance of God’s will for her life, is the first decade of the joyful mysteries, and yet each moment within them is bound up in uncertainty. From the Annunciation to the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, every instance hinges upon Mary’s surrender to the unknown. Her initial encounter with the angel presents her with a choice between hope and despair, and her resounding “yes” to his message, despite her fear of the unknown, allows her to remain in the present and know peace. As I continued to read through the passage, I was filled with a new desire to say “yes” to my own crosses, particularly my worry over how people viewed me and surrender to God’s will in moments of uncertainty.
Reading the passage of the Annunciation inspired me to put myself in Mary’s shoes, allowing me to delve further and further into the mystery of her fiat. Following the Annunciation, the rest of the joyful mysteries continue to test Mary’s willingness to surrender to God’s will. Immediately upon hearing her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant, Mary sets aside her own needs and desires to visit her cousin. She gives birth to Jesus in a foreign place, unaware that her new family will have to flee shortly after. When Jesus is a boy, her trust is tested when she loses her only child in the Temple. Even after he is found, Mary hears from Simeon that a sword will pierce her heart seven times, a reminder that she will suffer as her son fulfills God’s will. Again, her acceptance of sorrow gives way to trust, instilling within her an even deeper sense of joy.
As a young woman, it is easy to question my identity in moments of uncertainty. There have been many times when I have felt the weight of the unknown and been unafraid of the surrender it would require of me — whether I was feeling complacent in a particular job, afraid to leave an unhealthy friendship, or struggling to embrace my current state of life. In moments of fear, I have been tempted to pity myself, and allow shame to creep in. In my hesitancy to embrace the uncertain, I allow my need for security to rob me of joy of the present. I forget that hope in uncertainty is the antithesis of fear in the unknown; in striving to practice that hope, I can imitate Mary in the joyful mysteries and draw closer to Christ, her son.
My vocation as a young person is not something I must patiently wait to begin at a certain time. It is not something I must intricately plan out of a need for control or security. My vocation, rather, is to say “yes” in the midst of uncertainty and respond to wherever God needs me in the present moment, and to surrender to the needs of those around me with a spirit of joy and hope. Regardless of our particular circumstances, God has a plan for us amidst the uncertainty; he may not give us all that we want, but he will surely give us all that we need if we have the courage to ask.