“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”Martin Buber
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – Luke 1:26-28
Become quiet and still. Open your heart to this moment, to this image, to this Scripture, to God. Take your time. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you sense is God’s invitation to you?
She is not leaning in. She is not holding her ground, either. She is not even looking at him. He comes kneeling, crouching, full of energy and movement but also almost hesitant, reaching towards her in blessing but also holding back. He knows that what comes next will change her life. He knows that what comes next will change the world. There is something almost concerned on his face. He does not want to scare her, yet he opens his mouth to deliver news that will disturb everything.
This Mary does not kneel. She does not meekly comply. She does not go quiet and still. She is on the move. She is almost out of the frame. Her entire body bends away from him. She holds both hands up in a kind of protest. There is no book, no basket of yarn, no prayer kneeler. She is ready to leave.
And yet. She remains. Like him, she embodies a mix of contradictory impulses. Resistance may be her first response, but it is not her only response. Her hands, raised in protest, also reach towards him. Her eyes, refusing contact with his, are not closed but cast down, contemplative. Her body, arching away from him, also curves towards him.
The tension in the room and within each of them and between the two of them is most evident in those hands – his left hand, her right hand. They are both reaching towards and holding back. You can feel the electricity. He blesses and she resists. Or is it the other way around? Their hands tell the story of authentic encounter: it is not only one thing, felt in only one way; it is dynamic, complex, unpredictable, uncontrollable. True encounter involves the whole of our beings, with all our contradictions. Maybe Mary was able to make space for the uncontained God because she did not try as hard as we do to contain our contradictions.
Sometimes, we have to let ourselves feel the “no” before we can come to “yes.” Sometimes, we have to be honest with ourselves about the wide, wild range of responses we feel when we truly encounter a Thou. Sometimes, we have to go through resistance before we get to acceptance. God is in all this tension. The only mistake is to deny the truth and pretend our way forward.
What feelings, regrets, or longings do you routinely try to clamp down on? Consider the parts of yourself that do not live up to the way you think you “should” feel or think or be or do. What if, just for today, you let yourself be honest about what’s inside you, at least with yourself and with God? Could you let this honesty lead you towards a fresh encounter with God?
Uncontainable God, help me make more space for you today by dropping my pretenses.