In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothedto a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38, ESV)
For nothing will be impossible with God.
This is an odd time to think about the Immaculate Conception. It's not Christmastime. But I was struck by the simplicity of its implications recently. I was about to go to bed and I was praying and of course in distress about something I've been asking God to do in my life. Something that seems big and monumental and nearly impossible, all things considered (and maybe I'm being dramatic).
Usually, before I go to sleep, I listen to the daily prayer from Jesuit Media Initiatives. On this particular day (I don't remember what day exactly) the Scripture reading was over the Immaculate Conception. At some point the question was asked, "Are you ready for God to do something new in your life?". And I thought, "Yes!".
And that's when it hit me: God made a virgin pregnant with His Son/Himself. If you believe in the Virgin Birth (and I do), that's pretty heavy stuff. Defying the laws of nature and all that. It really put my seemingly-impossible request into perspective. I am asking for something that literally happens everyday. Can God do it? He made a virgin pregnant and came to Earth in human form. Yes, yes He can.
But then to have the same attitude as Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”. My prayers are not a demand of God's action, but a request, a plea. And while I believe He is fully of capable of doing all I ask and more, I want to be submissive to His will - whatever that may be. Realizing that He's almost assuredly not going to tell me ahead of time.
Several years ago, I started the habit of praying before I go to bed and when I wake up, "You are God and I am not, You are God and I am not, You are God and I am not". This reminder requires both the expectation of God's supernatural work in and around me and the humility to submit to His work and not throw pity parties and fits when things don't go my way.
So, all that to say: I underestimate God. I limit Him and think He's only capable of the bare minimum. I ask Him for crumbs. When He is capable of so much more.