Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone…Look to Mary

An illustration of Angel visits Mary. The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Biblical Series

Mary, the mother of Jesus, can serve as a great example of how to overcome our fears and get ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Initially, I was very excited to deliver a sermon on Luke’s Gospel on the story of Mary. Unfortunately, my excitement quickly gave way to panic as I realized the sheer magnitude of who I wanted to talk about. I froze up. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t write. Doubts flooded in and fear stopped me cold. What am I getting myself into? Who am I to do Mary’s story justice?

I prayed to God. I prayed to Jesus and I felt called to do something I have never done before: I looked into the Catholic gallery online and I prayed a prayer to Mary.

Now, I feel like I’m pretty good at prayer. I’ve been praying to God since I was five-years-old. But praying to Mary was uncharted territory for me. Growing up as a Methodist, we didn’t pray a prayer to the saints. I prayed to God for grace as I had no idea what I was doing. How should I pray the prayer? Sit, kneel or stand?  I prayed the prayer of Mary’s intersession: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary…” and I prayed as sincerely as I could, until I got to the part which said “To you I come, before you I stand…” and I sprung up out of my chair so fast I almost knocked my chair over. Apparently, I should have been standing. Afterwards, though, the words started flowing.

King David had wanted to build a magnificent temple dedicated to God, but God chose his temple in Mary’s womb. God sent his angel to a poor girl in a small corner of the world–Remember the disciple’s surprise, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”—and asked her to do what seems like the impossible.

In reading Luke 1:26-38, we are told that the angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her the news, “Behold,” the angel says, “you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” And the angel continued.

Mary asks the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”

Personally, I am relieved that Mary questioned the angel at this point. This is a significant pronouncement. This is God asking for the impossible. Other giants of faith had declarations that have seemed incredible. Abraham and Sarah were to have a son in their old age. Moses was to confront a powerful Pharaoh. Esther the orphan became a queen to save her people from persecution. The list goes on and on.

But Mary’s quest seems to defy human logic. The angel explains further. I often take these verses for granted because I’ve heard them regularly. I know the story of the manger. I know Jesus’s birth. But this is Mary and she’s hearing this for the first time. After the angel’s explanation, Mary answers, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me according to your word.”

Wow. I know I would have had more questions. Mary’s faithful answer astonishes me to this day. God is asking for her faith, her trust, and her obedience. And she says yes to God’s plan above all else.

In this story, you see Mary’s humanity. She was supposed to remain pure in this time with Joseph through her engagement. Instead, she is pregnant and no one understands. Her parents do not believe her. The Scripture doesn’t show how the conversation with her parents went with this revelation from God.

And what of the fear of the unknown? She was to be a new mother, but not just any mother, the mother of the Lord God. Trust me when I say that motherhood-parenthood- has pressures all of its own, but to be the mother to God, the savior of the world?

I feel at times we are quick to dismiss Mary’s humanity and ignore her struggles.

I have read several vocational discernment books. Many of the authors have shared a common theme of how people will say no to God because of their fear. They are afraid to follow God because it may lead them to be a missionary and they don’t want to be. Or they are afraid to get out of their comfort zone or afraid of public speaking or talking to strangers. There can be a lot of fear and uncertainty when following the path of which you feel God has called you to.

But what if we all had this great faith as Mary had? What if we told God, “Yes, Lord, I am your servant!” 

What is God calling you to do? Day-by-day we are living alongside God in these tumultuous times and we have choices we have to make. Are we saying yes to God and following the path?

It is not always something impossible. Maybe God is asking you to do something simple and you’ve just been too busy? God asks you to pick up the phone to check on someone and you’ve been meaning to but you keep forgetting to do it.

We can discern what God’s asking of us. We can look inside ourselves and ask God to help us follow where he leads and to be obedient.

While there is decorum and tradition which is important to follow within the church, I also felt God reminding me that it is okay to have child-like faith and wander into the uncomfortable and unknown.  The Holy Spirit will help us even when we don’t know how to pray or we don’t have the words. God hears the prayers of our hearts.

Starting with faith the size of a mustard seed is enough for God to start or continue the work within us.

And for those who feel to be in the midst of the impossible, remember Mary in her time, and know God is there with you. 

(This post is an adaptation of a sermon I preached at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on December 20, 2020.)

The Memorare to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.


4 responses to “Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone…Look to Mary”

  1. Brenda Whitsell Avatar
    Brenda Whitsell

    Really enjoyed and found helpful.


    1. Glad you found it helpful!


  2. Thank you so much for writing about Mary. Growing up Catholic, Mary was often spoke about and very much revered. Outsiders said that we were worshipping Mary over God. Not true! I really have missed the presence of Mary in church since I left the Catholic church several years ago. She is rarely mentioned with any significance in the church I now attend.


    1. You are welcome! Mary is an important figure in Christianity. I enjoyed writing about her.


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