by Daniel Bramlett
The phrase that has captured my mind and heart lately is found at the beginning of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” If there is any ambition for a man to have, this is it. We are a doing people. We don’t know how to dwell very well. We like to be on the move; in the action. This season brings out the worst in us. We rush here for this party, run there for this gift, cook this, prepare that … by the time Christmas Day arrives we are absolutely exhausted. Sometimes we end up telling the Lord, “We’ll just have to dwell in January.”
Abiding in the Almighty isn’t something we do. It’s a position we take. We can’t dwell in the Lord by reading more, praying more or thinking more good thoughts. It’s a lifestyle we adopt in the Spirit of God. It’s not something we can change overnight. If you read these words and the Spirit convicts you about your response(s) to Him, the best thing you can do is pray. Don’t make long promises or elaborate plans. Don’t try to do anything. Doing more is what gets us in the distracted, tired shape we’re in.
How do we abide in the shadow of the Almighty? Mary gives us a clue. She was a righteous woman. She was learning how to live faithfully. Her response to Gabriel was spot on. “Me? Why me? How in the world?” See if you can put yourself in her shoes. You are a part of a group of people known as “God’s Chosen.” You see your culture as a window for the world to look through to see God. As far back as your ancestral stories go, you know your family has served the Lord. The last several generations have been hard. No matter who’s asking, God hasn’t responded. Heavenly silence has framed every prayer. Because of the Prophets, you know a Messiah is coming, you just don’t know when or where. Many think He will be a Warrior King; a battle-tested fighter who can liberate Israel and restore her glory days. But you think other things. You remember Isaiah’s words about Him: “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and you see a gentle Savior; One who will rescue hearts from sin, not necessarily from Roman armies.
You are promised to a good man, a righteous man. He loves you and you love him very much. On the night everything changed, you are praying. Suddenly, a great light fills the room. It’s brighter than anything you’ve ever seen before, yet you have no trouble looking right at it, or into it. You see a man, a large man, standing in the room you were alone in just moments before. He speaks and your heart trembles. His words are comforting and very confusing. “You’ve found favor with God.” What?? How? He sees me? He knows who I am? “You will conceive and bear the Son of God and name Him Jesus.” Whoa! This seems impossible. How many of your ancestors have prayed for this news? Hundreds. How many came up wanting? All of them. This is the time we’ve all waited for, and you are the one God has chosen to carry His Son? Overwhelmed seems like preschool language.
When Mary questioned Gabriel, she showed her heart. She wasn’t prideful: “It’s me He’s chosen!” She wasn’t arrogant: “Out of all the young girls, I’m the one to bear Jesus.” She wasn’t pushy: “I was born for this!” She was humble and broken before God. Her sweet stance shows us what abiding looks like. In fact, those are the words Gabriel used to describe what was happening. “…the power of the Most High will overshadow you …” You will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Mary wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t chosen to carry Jesus because she looked good, had good manners, managed her finances well, was marrying into a good family or because she knew how to take care of a baby. God chose Mary because she was abiding in Him.
Abiding is a stance we make first in the heart. Stop trying to make everyone happy. A worn out Jesus follower isn’t much good at all. Stop trying to do everything. You’ll never get everything done. Abiding is your calling; it’s what your heart longs for. This Christmas determine not to make presents, food, family or friends your happy place. Find your peace in Jesus and stay there. The gift of peace is the best gift you can offer to those around you. And it only comes from a heart shadowed by God.