I sat in our bathroom with the door locked, and cried. It was nothing profound. I had just had a minor disagreement with my nine-year old daughter about math and her attitude. I had tried hard to keep my wits about me and hold my tongue. But I finally lost my temper with her.
As I sat there crying, feelings of inadequacy washed over me. This was not the first time that I had blown my top with one of my daughters. Surely, if I was cut out for this kind of life, I would not get so frustrated with them, and this would not be so hard, I reasoned.
The Lord had called me to homeschool our daughters three years ago, but there were many days that the tools required to school these girls eluded me. “God,” I prayed there in the bathroom, “I just can’t do this. Perhaps I should just quit and enroll them in the nearest school? Surely there is someone out there that would do a better job educating them and would certainly be nicer to them than me. Homeschooling is just too emotionally taxing. It takes up all of my time, and it certainly is not the occupation of choice for most women I know!” I expected a revelation at that moment, or some kind of clarification on the issue, but none came. I decided to calm down before I went back out to face my daughter and my fears.
I would like to say that everything worked out nicely, that we apologized to one another and the rest of our day went smoothly. However, as usual, it took us both several hours to cool off and continue on with our day.
In the intervening time, the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, Francesca Battistelli’s “Be Born in Me,” resonated in my mind and heart: “I am not brave/ I’ll never be/ The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy/ I’m just a girl/ Nothing more/ But I am willing, I am Yours.” The song depicts a young Mary and her emotional vulnerability as she ponders bearing the Savior of the world. Even though I had heard this song many times during my workouts, the turmoil of that morning provided a context in which the lyrics touched me more deeply. I needed to know that God could still use me in the lives of my daughters despite my obvious imperfections.
As I contemplated Mary’s words, her ordinariness juxtaposed with her calling by God struck me as she sang, and my eyes welled with tears. Mary was a young girl, maybe 12 or 13. She was being asked by God to do something extraordinary, and as an ordinary, young, Jewish woman, she certainly did not have the necessary qualifications (at least, not in the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders) to bear the Savior of the world.
When she was approached by the angel Gabriel, he said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” The gospel of Luke says that she was greatly troubled at what he said to her. Perhaps Mary was troubled or even fearful that the angel had categorized her among the highly favored and blessed? I would have been too! Who am I? What have I done to “deserve” an audience with the angel Gabriel who bears a divine message for me? Gabriel did not respond to her by giving her a litany of reasons about her qualifications to bolster her confidence. He responded to her fear by encouraging her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
The angel tells Mary that she was favored by God — twice. Apparently, Mary, like many of us, needed a reminder that this divine favor was God’s own doing, not something within her that set her apart from others.
For those of us that sense a call to something, a vocational responsibility, we discover that the vocation stretches us beyond who we are. I have felt this in homeschooling my children. Many times, as I taught my daughters I felt like I had to be a different person than who I was in order to teach them. I felt too ordinary, not special enough. I would wonder if God needed an extraordinary person who had extraordinary training or qualities to teach these girls, not me. As a mother, I really felt undeserving to raise these three human beings much less teach them. And in many ways, I am undeserving. It is God’s unmerited favor towards me that makes me exceptional and not ordinary. Just as it was God’s grace that He chose Mary to bear the Savior.
After the angel explained that Mary would bear the Son of God in her womb, her response to him was, “Let it be to me according to your word.” She had understood her calling and was willing to be a part of this amazing plan. When God, in His grace, calls us, it is not about our qualifications. It is about our willingness to be used by Him. God needs willing participants for his will to be done, and Mary was certainly not qualified according to the cultural standards of her day, but she was willing.
While I certainly did not feel like a qualified candidate to homeschool three wonderful (and frustrating!) human beings, I knew that I was called. Was I going to be a willing participant, as Mary was, and humbly accept God’s calling for my life in good times and in bad no matter how crazy the idea sounded to me?
Rebecca Schad is the adopted only child of missionary doctors and for the first ten years of her life, was raised in Cameroon, Africa. She is now a happy homeschooling mother to 3 daughters who enjoys traveling the world with her Air Force husband, Andrew. They have lived in Bahrain and Jordan.