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My wife and I were discussing Mary last night in light of her visitation in Luke 1:26-38. Lisa was thinking as a mother, considering the weight of Mary’s burdens: having a child under unusual circumstances, raising that child with the knowledge that his life would make a history-making difference, and then watching him crucified. Perhaps only a mother can appreciate even a glimpse of those burdens.

I was thinking as someone who mentors young people who are struggling with a sense of God’s calling. As I have struggled with my own calling, I have found that I share much in common with George Herbert in his wonderful poem “The Collar.” Herbert’s pun on “collar” and “choler” is wonderful and I know it well as a fellow “board-striker.” One thing I tell my students with some frequency is that you don’t get to pick your calling. You submit to God’s sovereignty and go where He leads, following His leading and employing the gifts that the Spirit provides along the way that enable that specific calling.

I know that many folks get carried away with the notion of calling and turn it into some sort of Delphic Oracle experience (see fellow blogger Kevin DeYoung’s wonderful book “Just Do Something” as an antidote to this; it should be mandatory reading for anyone who is serious about this). Others use their sense of calling as a “get out of jail free” card, offering it as an excuse to justify their selfishness and stubbornness (I think guys in ministry are the most prone to do this: “I know that this is God’s calling / leading so do what I say and shut up about it”).

When I consider Mary’s response, though, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (v. 38), along with her glorious song to God recorded in verses 46-52, I am reminded that a calling may feel like a burden and, indeed, sometimes may actually be a burden, but it is one of God’s own choosing, which means that it is one that He works through to give us strength in spite of the circumstances. For this we should give praise to the God whose mercy rests on those who fear and serve Him.

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