Like many other people in the world I have always known that I was the result of an unplanned pregnancy. Oh my parents loved me and cared for me, but they were hoping to enjoy life together for a while before itty bitty me showed up shortly after the honeymoon and left my uncharacteristically emotional mother spending much of her first year of marriage hanging over a toilet. I heard the story of my birth many times. She nearly died and was left with chronic pain which I frequently witnessed. To make things worse I was not the curly-haired, cheerful, compliant child she had dreamed of dressing up in the latest kiddy fashions. I felt like I was born with a huge debt for being the wrong child born at the wrong time in a most troublesome manner.
She never said that of course. It was just something a child picked up from overhearing stories about “the baby” in a transverse position and all the complications that followed. I knew I was “the baby.” The desperate fussy attempts to make me look like the children in movies and story books and exasperated words like, “Why can’t you be more like Mary Beth?” told me there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t fix.
I was also born in the middle of the baby boom when there was a shortage of classrooms and books and gym equipment and a lot of other desired items. We boomers always seemed to surprise the authorities who never totally grasped the numbers until our mob moved on. One year my parents went to a parent/teacher interview. Not only did the teacher not know my name after three months sitting under his tutelage, he insisted I wasn’t in his class. They proved I was. His only comment to them was that I needed to speak up more. I was used to being lost in a crowd.
I know I’m not the only one who grew up harbouring shame for being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people feel they were born the wrong gender, the wrong ethnicity, the wrong temperament. The artsy one in a sports-mad family. The tone-deaf one in a family of musicians. The extrovert in a family of introverts. The chubby one in a family of fashionistas. The seventh in a family that could barely afford six.
I didn’t realize how deeply those feelings affected me until the Lord stopped me one day in the middle of a pity-party.
“You’re not, you know.”
“You’re not an accident. You were very much planned.”
“I heard them say otherwise.”
“You were planned. By Me. You are exactly the right person at the right time in the right place.”
“Seriously? I thought I was a ‘surprise.’”
“Nothing surprises Me. Do you think Jesus was a surprise? Not to Me.”
I thought about Mary and the shock she must have felt when an angel showed up and gave her surprising news that she would bear a son, much too early to fit convention or to give her and Joseph a comfortable settling-in period. I realized again the trust she must have had in God when she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” I realized how much trust the Lord must have had in her. She understood Who was asking and the importance of what He was asking of her. Even the angel knew who she was.
“Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you,” he said. She was the one who was highly favoured!
But Mary was not God’s only highly favoured child. God’s love is so immense that His favour towards those who respond to Him has no limits.
I found confirmation in Psalm 39:
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!”
(Verses 13 to 22 in The Message)
This may just be conjecture, but I wonder if the psalmist struggled with the same doubts about who he was. I wonder if he needed to hear the assuring words of the One who loved him for who he was.
Some of you need to hear this: You are not a mistake. You were planned and have always been planned in the heart of the Creator of the universe. You are the right temperament, the right colour, the right size, the right gender. You are in this time and this place because He has marvelous plans for you. You are not merely one among billions. You are not lost in a crowd. He knows everything about you. He thinks about you constantly.
He knows your name! He absolutely adores you, you know.
You are highly favoured.