My husband and I took a dancing lesson before we got married. Apparently in dancing, one person is meant to lead, while the other follows (who knew?). As the dance instructor watched us glide (aka stumble) around the room a few times, she stopped us and proclaimed to me, “You need to stop trying to be in control!” We laughed, and I muttered, “This sounds a lot like ourpre-marriage counselling.”
If we could control our relationships, if we could demand they work exactly the way we want them to, they might be easier. Yet loving another can never be about controlling the other—whether it’s our six year old child, our partner, our friends, or our parents.
Somehow the holidays bring out all of our hidden desires for control, as we strive for a season that looks the way we imagine it should. If he would just buy the gift I want...if they would just show up to dinner on time...if she would just dress the way I think she should...if he would just not say anything embarrassing...if they could just...
Maybe we believe we can control God and God's action in our lives, too. It might feel safer if that were the case.
Mary would learn that saying “yes” to the mystery of God-with-us, saying “yes” to bearing God’s Love into the world, would be dangerous and beyond her control. Perhaps the possibilities race through her mind as Gabriel speaks. What will her father say? Will her marriage be called off? Will she be shunned? Thrown into the streets? Who will be with her when she gives birth? Will she even survive childbirth?
But there are dangers she can’t foresee in this moment: the fear when she hears that baby boys her son’s age are being slaughtered, the confusion when her grown son says that anyone who does God’s will is his mother, the agony of watching as her son dies the horrendous death of a criminal. She would learn that being a mother, maybe especially being the mother of God-with-us, means letting go of trying to control the one she loves.
Prayer: God who we cannot control, give us the courage to love others without trying to command them.