Friday, October 12, 2012

Elizabeth Series - Part II

Today I will continue in my three-part series about the story of Elizabeth. The full story of Elizabeth can be read in Luke 1:5-80. This series is part of the larger grouping of blog posts that have been labeled the Commonness of Barrenness, a label I refer to as I learn about women in the Bible who struggled with infertility. One such woman, Elizabeth, is a great example in many ways. I'm proud to say my middle name is Elizabeth, so, you know, we have that in common too. :)


Part II: Humbleness
Please read Luke 1:24-25; 39-56.


Imagine that you are Elizabeth. You are a woman and wife. You are older in age. You have spent your married life, and probably more, longing for a child of your own. In your society, it's expected to bear children. It's a show of God's blessing upon you. It's a show of womanhood. It's a right of passage. It's customary. Imagine the embarrassment you would feel at social events as you are expected to have children, but you do not have any. As you see many other women with one, two, three, or more children, but you do not even have one. For a reason you do not know, you spend year after year after year, growing older and older, watching other women bear children, but not you. As you age, you watch as the childbearing group of women become younger and younger compared to you. The gap between you begins to widen. With each passing year. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. You love the Lord with all your heart, but ache with a deep desire to become a mother too. To love and to hold your precious little one. To have the chance.

And then one day, you become pregnant. The day you have hoped for. The day you have prayed for. The day your heart has longed for finally arrives.

What would you do?

I think for many, myself included, the temptation or reflex response is to shout it from a mountain top. To parade around town and show everyone, "Look! Look what I finally have! You people can no longer make me feel shame, for I am now one of you!"

But what does Elizabeth do? She remained in seclusion.

Luke 1:24
After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.

It says here that she remained in seclusion for five months. As you will see in the next few verses, the five months was mentioned because Luke writes about an event that takes place while Elizabeth was six months pregnant. It says later in verse 58 that "Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her." This implies that she continued to remain in seclusion for the duration of her pregnancy.

Why would she remain in seclusion, after waiting so long to experience this joyous event? Was she ungrateful, or bitter about having to wait so long?

Luke 1:25
"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Nope. Clearly she saw this pregnancy as a favor bestowed from the Lord. She recognized that she would no longer feel disgrace from among her people. So why hide yourself from the people?

And why in verses 39-45 would she direct all the focus on her relative Mary (as in Jesus' mother who was pregnant at the time of her visit with the now pregnant Elizabeth), and Mary's pregnancy, instead of her own pregnancy? I mean, Elizabeth surely could have expressed praise over Mary's miraculous conception and pregnancy, and then also express praise about her own why did Elizabeth behave in this way?

My opinion? Elizabeth may well serve as an example of the most humble woman in the Bible. She is described early on in Luke 1:6 as being a righteous woman. But every way that Elizabeth is described and every thing Elizabeth says after that point portrays her as an incredibly humble, and thankful woman.

She was so thankful to God for answering her prayer. But she chose not to be prideful about it. She chose not to make an idol out of her pregnancy or her baby. She chose not to parade around town flaunting her newfound grace among the people. Remember how much pressure there was in that time to bear children, and the likely shame and disgrace Elizabeth and other barren women must have felt. It's amazing that she so strongly desired to have a child, and when she finally received that desire, she was so humble as to remain in seclusion and just bask in God's goodness in solitude.

What an example!

I hope I have a chance one day to respond the same way Elizabeth did. I don't think I can realistically remain in seclusion, never leaving my house for nine months, but I strive to keep her example as my heart's attitude. I wrote a previous blog post similar to this topic. I know that even in our society today, there is so much attention given to pregnant women. It is still very much considered a right of passage to becoming a woman. I strive to remain humble if I am given the opportunity to become pregnant.

For you women who become pregnant one day, please follow Elizabeth's example, even if you did not have to wait as long as she did to become pregnant. Remember that it's a lie to believe that you had anything to do with becoming pregnant. Sure, you're carrying the child, and you were the vessel to receive your husband's seed, but ultimately it is only God alone who chose to grow a human life in your womb. Choose humbleness over pride. Use the attention you will surely receive to be humble and express praise to God and others around you. That is true beauty.

And I'd like to say a little something special to any husbands reading this. I believe that you men are included in this story. It's not just your wives who will receive the attention from society if she becomes pregnant. I have seen and heard many husbands proclaim that they impregnated their wives. Are you sure about that? No, don't go out and demand a paternity test...what I mean is that yes, you contributed the seed, you consist of half the genetic makeup. But you did not cause the pregnancy to occur. Only God creates a life. It's prideful to think that you and "your powerful boys" accomplished this task, made this field goal, or scored this run. Try to reject the temptation to feel pumped up with your own self-power and remember that God is the one and only giver of life, both physical and spiritual.  You too can learn from Elizabeth's example to not flaunt your "power to impregnate" in front of your friends. Choose humbleness over pride.

I'll leave you with a repeated verse from yesterday's Part I post, and parts of Mary's praises to God during her visit with Elizabeth:

1 Corinthians 3:7
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

Luke 1:47-52 (Mary speaking)
47 My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

To be concluded...

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