We bought her a pregnancy test. She was 17 and scared. She feared what people would say. She wanted to embrace this baby but feared the backlash of her classmates. What would her mom say who was a teen mom herself? How would she graduate high school? How could she chase her dreams with a baby on her hip? What would her teachers say? The feelings of shame, judgement and embarrassment heaped onto her shoulders with each week as she showed more and more.
That was in 2009, my first up close experience walking this road of teen pregnancy with a high school friend. Since then, I have committed to helping teen moms navigate the unplanned, unique stage of life that they are immersed in. Many times my conversations with these scared but brave girls turns back to how God sees them and what their worth and value is in His eyes. This has become the work God has called me to as a Young Lives Director.
LORD, WhY ME?
Though I am growing more familiar with the complexities of teen pregnancies, it is still hard to wrap my mind around the depths of experience that occurred in Mary’s heart some 2000 years ago. Imagine what pregnant Mary endured as a middle school aged unmarried Jewish girl in a culture where her condition was completely unacceptable. Did she become known as the girl who told an erratic story of getting pregnant by Immaculate Conception? (Was that even a term then?) What would your response be if she trusted you enough to tell you, “I promise, I didn’t have sex with anyone! The Angel Gabriel visited me and told me I would carry a child. Really, that’s what happened!”
How would Joseph have responded? In 2016, they would have been the next guests on Maury with Mary backstage waiting on the results of a lie detector test. But then, there is the beautiful truth of God’s amazing plan to send Jesus to save all of humanity and it started in Mary’s womb. Was she a willing recipient? Did she ask, “Lord, Why Me?” Did she feel like she was losing her mind to defend what the Angel told her? Could this be the beginning of the end for Mary and her life in the community she lived in?
In Luke 1:46-55, we see Mary’s response. Shockingly, she clearly accepted the news with joy and embraced this new role God had given her. She began to sing his praises! She was more consumed by God’s role for her as Jesus’ mother than her social ruin.
In 2014, my family followed God’s lead to a new job for my husband in a new city in a new state. The month before we moved, we discovered we were expecting our third child. The people around us probably thought we were crazy. After the move I kind of started to feel that way too. We made the decision to live off of one income and not contributing to our family financially took a toll on my self-worth in a whole new way. I was never a huge fan of being a stay-at-home-mom. I always worked full-time and didn’t know what to do with these 2 toddlers and a big belly slowing me down. I think we talked about poop at least once an hour. I was in a house half the size with no yard in a city where we knew no one. I had no job to build friendships, no school for my kids to get to know other kids, and no church family yet. It was a very isolating time. I’m not going to lie, I cried and complained a lot at first. My friends from across the miles got an earful of depressing thoughts. It was scary and lonely and I wondered “Lord, Why Me?”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
But, in that isolating time, much like Mary, I began to see the bigger picture. This season forced me to recognize my role in His larger plan for my family. Not as quickly as Mary, I will admit, but eventually I was able to embrace the new role He was calling me to. Being the helper for my husband to blossom in his role as a father and his career.
We make plans in life. Plans for good things. Plans for family, and jobs and homes and beauty. But things always happen to impede our best laid plans. Always. And when our plans are waylaid, maybe we cry out to God, ‘Why?’ Maybe we put on a brave face and press through the hardship. Maybe we turn away from God, assured that our own strength is sufficient. Mary did none of the above. Instead, she seemed to trust. I believe that her trust came from a conviction that God was up to something bigger, greater, more powerful and significant than her small corner of Nazareth could hold. I’m sure Mary would not have envisioned her first child to be born in a manger while traveling far from all that she knew and all whom she loved. But she embraced God’s plan.
EMBRACING OUR ROLE
Recently I learned I’m going to have to be a stay-at-home mom a bit longer than I planned. Instead of my typical response of getting fearful, I respond like Mary. I want to praise God for how he sees fit to use me. It may not be what I thought I would be doing in 2017, but I am choosing to sing God’s praises and glorify Him in the gift of being a mother to our sweet little ones. And what a gift it is to be called to that role! The coming of Christ gives context to our stories that makes us ready to embrace our roles and sing praise to the God who graciously includes us in his larger plan.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
1. How is the role you’ve been given different than the role you imagined?
2. What is your song right now? A song of sorrow? Of hope? Of frustration?
3. How can seeing your story as a part of God's larger plan of redemption change that song into a song of praise and joy?
Billi Dray is currently the YoungLives Director in Hilton Head and Bluffton, South Carolina. YoungLives is a branch specifically for teen moms within Young Life designed to meet teen moms where they are, build bridges of authentic friendship, and develop one-on-one mentoring relationships. The hope is that through this mentoring program, teen moms will develop resiliency to confront obstacles, have realistic expectations, develop a positive self-esteem and build on their strengths.
After leaving her career in Broadcast News, Billi spent six years developing Young Life as the Area Director in Lima, Ohio. In that time, she worked with a diverse group of teenagers including teen mothers. She and her family moved to Bluffton, SC in August of 2014 for her husband's job. She has three children Miah (5), JJ (4) and Josiah (1) and has been married to Charlie Dray for eight years.