Since today is the Feast of the Annunciation, when Mary said “yes,” I thought I’d reprint my “yes” moment, my “Saving Grace” moment.
I’m directionally impaired. Always have been.
When I was four, I got lost in the hallways of the production studio where “The Uncle Al Show” was taped. As all the other kids (including my three sisters) ate ice-cream cones made of marshmallows (like peeps) and did the elbow dance in front of cameras, I was crying my eyes out off the set, looking for my mom.
I still can’t read a map, and I manage to get lost in my own town. I need direction. Big time.
So I call on archangel Gabriel.
He’s the 411 guy, the dude with all the skinny on God’s plans. With his access to heaven, this feathered fellow can decode practically any divine agenda. Best known as the Angel of the Annunciation, it was he who appeared to Mary to reveal what became the greatest miracle of the Christian faith.
After Gabriel said hello, told Mary whom he represented, and freaked her out a bit (“But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” Luke 1:29), the heavenly messenger did what angels do best: consoled her, quieted her fears, and let her in on the game plan.
“Do not be afraid, Mary,” he said, “for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great…and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)
“Sounds great, Gabby,” she replied. “But no can do. I’m chaste, if you know what I mean….”
“Ah, yes,” he interrupted, “but nothing is impossible with God.”
In other words, this life isn’t all there is. Yonder is another world that’s not bound by the rules of gravity. Or any rules. That world is one of pure, sparkling hope. Where the angels are tour guides. And no one gets lost.
Gabriel, or one of his assistants, appeared to me when I was 18. He was disguised as a beautiful 27-year-old brunette, a passionate and kind woman who was my high school religion teacher.
She was worried about me, and rightly so: I slurred my words and giggled inappropriately over the intercom as I said morning prayer for the school; I stumbled cross-eyed into the auditorium and made out publicly with my date at the Homecoming dance; and I got thrown off the drill team for packing liquor into my suitcase at band camp.
Somewhere in the mess I was making of my life, an angel got concerned and handed me a map.
“What’s going on?” she asked me, as we sat down on the stairs at the main entrance to the school.
“Nothing,” I almost replied. Further confessions might mean more demerits. But there was something in the way she inquired that made me think our talk belonged in the “grace” category, with those dialogs Gabriel had with his peeps (not the marshmallow treats I didn’t get to eat on “Uncle Al”).
“This isn’t you,” she said. “You can be more.”
That ten-minute chat changed my life.
I decided, then and there, that I was going to venture out of my comfort zone (sober!). I wasn’t sure about all the details in the contract, but somewhere and somehow on those steps of my high school, I said Amen.
Like Mary said to Gabriel.
“Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your will.” (Luke 1:38)
In recovery lingo, we’d say this was Mary’s third step (“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”). It’s also the twelfth and final album released by The Beatles (“Let It Be“).
Mary’s “fiat” to Gabriel and my conversion on the stairs were about getting turned around in a new direction: toward birth and miracles and hope. God’s intercessor was right to offer the mother of Jesus a few details and instructions (downloaded from straight from heaven). And he may very well have been a key player in the heart-to-heart I had with Miss K.
He’s good with directions, Gabriel. Especially when I’m not.