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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Celebrate Advent: Make room for willingness. (Luke 1:26-38)

Today's word is willingness. The school year was just beginning, and I was tuning into a webcast one evening with Lysa Terkeurst and Ann Voskamp. The subject: saying yes to God. Lysa's simple message was this: I can give God my willingness. I can give Him my yes.

I realized how reluctant I'd become in saying yes. Some of the reluctance was good. For years, I'd assumed more and more responsibility in every sort of direction, until finally, the plates I'd been spinning came crashing to the ground. When they did, the only thing I was left holding was resentment.

No, I knew what it was like to try scooping all the  littered pieces of broken humanity into my lap. I was done with being a hero. Willingness has made me its fool.

Not long after, the era of twins dawned. Life complicated and multiplied. I felt exhausted. Heroism was now defined by the taking a shower.

These past four years have taught me something significant and important about limitation. I have limited capacities. I need sleep more than ever. My priorities are first to my husband and to my children. I am not so readily willing as I once was.

It can even be that new responsibilities terrify me. Maybe it's because life stacks up like laundry. It doesn't matter how heroic all of my efforts are to tame the piles - there's simply no catching up and no getting ahead. And I know some of the reluctance is good, a fair reckoning with my limited time and energy.

But if I were to really tell the truth, some of my reluctance is rooted in fear.

I'm afraid to disappoint people.

I'm afraid to do something less than perfectly.

(Kinda like this stupid blogpost which I written and re-written and revised and edited and still feels like a bunch of nonsense.)

Yes, sometimes reluctance is good, especially when it's a prayerful kind of waiting on God and leaning in to hear what direction He wants me to take. But sometimes my reluctance is a bunch of excuse-making, dragging my heels nothing more than doubting God. I'm Moses before the bush, begging God to send anyone but me!

Willingness is a great gift . Willingness happens in the space of surrendered trust. Willingness is doing the accounting, finding the deficit of your own capacities, and even still, putting yourself into God's hands. Willingness was what Mary offered to God.

I could spend the next four weeks of Advent turning over in my mind two phrases of today's reading: "I am the Lord's servant. Let it be unto me according to your word." It's the structure of that last phrase that strikes me. It's a passive construction. Let it be unto me. Mary's not directing this scene. She's simply receiving the script.

And what will it really take for me to grow more willing?

Mary's readiness to see herself rightly. 

Mary's readiness to receive all things from God's hand. 

Considering how it is that I'm willing and where it is that I'm reluctant can be a really important spiritual diagnostic. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in Invitations from God asks this: "What inside me needs to change so that God's motivations and desires are mine?"

In other words, what inside of me needs to change so that I become more willing?

For me, the real trick is in discerning where my willingness is God-breathed and right and when it's really that well-worn habit of refusing to reckon with my limitations.

The reason this blogpost feels so clumsy is because truthfully, most days I have no idea.