It was a difficult situation to be in, and in her specific culture and time period, it was almost unheard of. She was facing a tough road ahead, but she had a deep faith and she knew that God would be by her side, giving her the strength to face each new day and to tackle each new challenge that would arise as a result of this pregnancy. Aware that God had a specific call on her life, she clung to her faith and trusted in Him.
The first person she went to when she found out her news was not her best friend, it was not her husband-to-be, it was not even a member of her immediate family.
No, the first person she went to was an older woman – a relative of hers who had also received a specific call from God on her life.
She went to see Elizabeth.
And for three months she stayed with Elizabeth, gleaning from her wisdom, basking in her encouragement and resting in the tender love and concern that Elizabeth offered.
A godly older woman, Elizabeth reached out to Mary and helped her make it through the difficult first trimester of pregnancy. “You are blessed of the Lord,” she told Mary, and the two of them marveled together at the grace of their God who chose both of them to serve Him in an amazing, fantastic way.
When Mary left Elizabeth, she was ready to tackle the challenges of her new ministry. She had no assurance that anyone back home would believe her story . . . she couldn’t even be sure that her husband-to-be would continue on in their relationship . . . but she knew she had the backing of her Heavenly Father and the support of her older relative and friend.
She was a young teenager, newly pregnant and unmarried, but supported by a mentor and empowered by the Heavenly Father.
Mary was ready for the biggest ministry of her life.
I have had several Elizabeths in my life over the years . . . older women who patiently served as a mentor to me as I navigated the challenges of ministry. As I look back over the years, I cannot help but be thankful for the example that these women set for me. In many ways, I owe my philosophy of ministry to them, for I was always watching their lives, looking for ways that I could improve my own life and attitude, and soaking up the encouragement that they offered me along the way.
I think of Debra. More a friend to me than a “minister’s wife”, she showed me that the term “minister’s wife” should never totally define a person. Through her life, Debra showed that there is no “one-size-fits-all” minister’s wife, and that every minister’s wife should be free to use her own gifts however she felt God leading, even if it meant breaking normal “minister’s wife” stereotypes.
I think of Saundra. The minister’s wife at our first ministry far from home, Saundra took me under her wing and helped me learn how to handle the challenges of ministry with a young family while away from family. In a sense, Saundra and her husband became our family while we served there, and for that I will always be grateful.
I think of Chris. Always joyful, Chris displayed a vibrant and energetic personality that sparked everything she did. She perhaps gave me the greatest bit of advice I have ever received concerning ministry – “The first year, they all love you. The second year, they tolerate you. The third year they think you are from the devil!” She reminded me that ministry requires perseverance.
I think of Amy. Sweet and kind, Amy was quick to reach out and lend a hand whenever needed. I carry a picture of her in my mind from the day she spent making homemade playdough with my young boys, allowing me the opportunity to go to a doctor’s appointment without kids tagging along. When I think of Amy, I think of the servant’s heart and generosity that comes with being a daughter of God.
And I think of Willette. I have learned so much watching Willette over the past few years, but perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from her life is that family needs to come first. She has shown me that it is okay to say “no”, that a minister’s wife is not obligated to be at every church activity and that the first ministry I should be concerned with is the ministry within my own family.
Yes, I have truly had several wonderful Elizabeths in my own life.
Now it is time for me to become an Elizabeth to someone else.
Isn’t that what God wants of us? Doesn’t He want us to take an interest in the needs of the other women around us and to help them grow in their faith? He doesn’t want us to judge them, or to point out their faults. He doesn’t want us to talk about them behind their backs, or to think of ourselves as better than they are.
He simply wants us to love them and mentor them . . . to teach them through our own lives and example what it means to be a godly woman in today’s society, and to give them the encouragement they need to persevere in their life situations.
What would happen if we all started doing that today?
What would happen if we all became like Elizabeth?
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”
– Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)