It was time. It was well PAST time!!! So there I was, on hands and knees, with a bucket of hot water and Lestoil, thick rubber gloves and the rough side of a sponge, scrubbing my bathroom floor. My WHITE tile bathroom floor. That floor and I are not friends. We’re just not. It shows every piece of lint, dust, hair, droplet of water or hair spray. I can scrub it clean and within minutes it looks nasty again. Did I mention we are not friends?
It’s not pretty. I get a little (ok, a lot) whiney about my dislike for that floor. But the wiser, more practical side of me overrides my discontent and reminds me that it is not a small or inexpensive undertaking to change what I don’t like. Instead, I choose to ignore it. The problem with ignoring it is that it also gets neglected. The lint and dust and hair mount and as a product of the 80’s, hairspray is not just a little additive. Let’s just say that by the time I decided it was TIME to tackle that floor, it was down right crusty!!! And required hands and knees, scrub one tile at a time with more than just a little elbow grease kind of nasty!
The bittersweet of this story is that we are blessed with a very spacious bathroom… so that white tile – with which I am not friends – we have a lot of it!! Scrubbing that floor, 6×6 inches at a time took about 2 hours! As I scrubbed away, face to face with that white tile, you might think that my mind would drift to Cinderella, her happy tunes or her singing birds and mice. Nope. Instead, I kept thinking of Elizabeth.
Mother of John the Baptist. Wife of Zechariah. Elizabeth.
I didn’t realize before that there is only one Elizabeth in the Bible! Just one! There are several Johns, a few Marys, a few Josephs, and even more than one Zechariah… but only one, truly special lady named Elizabeth.
And the Lord called her to walk a path through life that was much more difficult than my struggle with white bathroom tile. Many aspects of her life were blessings and challenges mixed into one. And none of them were within her control to change, logistically, monetarily or otherwise.
And yet, the little we are told about Elizabeth would lead me to believe that she never grumbled about, ignored, or neglected what the Lord had placed in her hands. Instead we read of faithfulness, commitment to God’s plan, and rejoicing! We only get a glimpse of this special lady, but I have a feeling I could learn a lot from her!
Luke was the only one to tell her story. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both from the priestly line of Aaron. They had no inheritance within the land of Israel. Their service for the Lord and His provisions for them were their only inheritance. They were set apart by God, for His service. They were unique among the children of Israel.
Elizabeth was also barren. By the time we are introduced to Elizabeth, both she and her husband were well advanced in age. She may have spent many years longing for a child, longing to raise a son who could learn from his father to serve God in His temple. In a family of priests, their role within the nation of Israel was already set apart, and now God called her to walk a path that was additionally isolating, possibly misunderstood and judged, and, very likely, lonely.
Luke described Zechariah and Elizabeth as “righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commands.” Despite any personal disappointments, this couple remained faithful to the roles and in the place the Lord assigned to them, day after day, year after year. Then, maybe when they least expected it, they were given the remarkable opportunity to see how their unique situation would draw attention to the truly miraculous things God was about to do:
* an angel from God appeared to her husband, face to face!
* their prayers had been heard and answered!
* she, who was called barren and beyond child-bearing age, would conceive, carry, birth, and raise a son!
* their child was named and claimed by God, for a specific and thrilling assignment before he was even conceived
* her close relative, Mary, was chosen to carry and birth JESUS, the Messiah!
* Mary came to visit her and her baby leapt with joy in her womb, both of them filled with the Holy Spirit!
* Elizabeth knew (with little explanation from Mary, at least in scripture) that Mary was the chosen mother of her Lord and was overjoyed at the honor of receiving such a visit
* these two close relatives, both expecting their first, miraculous child at the same time but at drastically different stages of life, would have the joy of spending 3 precious months together in a hidden away place to walk with each other through their extraordinary experiences
The details of her story are familiar enough to me that sometimes I take them for granted. These were truly miraculous events! In her very body, Elizabeth experienced the impossible become possible! After a lifetime of faithful service to God, she and her extended family were chosen to live out critical details of the Lord’s eternal plan of redemption for His people. After generations of longing and clinging to the promises of God that He would send a Redeemer, they were watching it all unfold… in their very own home, but also with a far-reaching impact they couldn’t begin to understand!
I am amazed by how calm Elizabeth seems! My head would have been spinning. I would have had so many questions… and far too much to say. Elizabeth’s recorded words are few but very telling: “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace.” ~ “Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? … You [Mary] are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.” ~ “No! His name is John.”
There was no exasperated, “finally! I finally get to be a mother! I just wish this could have happened at a different time.” There was no envious comparison, “why wasn’t I chosen to be the mother of the Messiah?” There were no selfish plans for her son, “well, I think we should name him this” or “I’d love for him to grow up to do that.”
No. Only thankfulness. Only recognition of the Lord’s kindness to her. Only awe and honor that the mother of her Lord would visit her. Only encouragement and confirmation to this young mother that God would bless her for her belief and obedience. Only utter confidence in the plan God had created and already spoken over her son’s life.
How did Elizabeth stay so calm, so confident, so joyfully yielded? How did she seem to know and understand what God was doing? I can only guess that her unique circumstances led her to the Lord in prayer many times over many years – that she had listened and learned the commands and promises of the Lord, followed them, believed them – that the One true God made Himself real to her in a growing, personal way – that she knew His still, small Voice well – that He revealed things to her that few around her knew or understood.
Knowing God and trusting His plan must have steadied her when life got really interesting! When no one around her knew quite what to make of their living miracle, she seemed to have no questions, only confidence… and JOY! Her life before, during and after giving birth to her long-awaited son seems to have been hidden away, quiet, unnoticed by most – simply faithful.
God noticed. God placed her exactly where she was, mapped out her days, and had eternal purposes embedded in each step. He asked her to walk a difficult and probably heart-breaking path, but equipped her to do so, even when she didn’t see the dramatic turn that path would take. He commended her faithfulness in what He had given her, her carefulness to follow what He had revealed to her. And He used her to raise the one who would go before Him and point many in Israel to their true Messiah.
So how did all of this come to mind and transform the scrubbing of my bathroom floor? I know full well that white tile would have been the least of Elizabeth’s concerns. On most days, white tile is the least of my concerns, too. But my Savior used those crusty, nasty tiles and that labor-intensive job to crack open dark places in my own heart. My disdain for those white tiles is just a convenient outlet for much deeper restlessness – the questions that lurk, discontented at best, frustrated and defiant at worst – the what ifs, the if onlys, the why does it have to be this way?
The Lord brought Elizabeth to mind for a reason – to give me her God-honoring example to follow:
Will I embrace the Lord’s path for me, even when He has placed me where I might not choose to be?
Will I faithfully care for what He has placed in my hands, white tile and all?
Will I choose to see His kindness, choose to be grateful?
Am I steady and consistent, simply faithful to Him?
Will I look beyond whatever it is in my day that I don’t prefer…to be honored and overjoyed that my LORD would visit me?! – to let it sink in that He not only visits me, but has given His life to redeem me, to live within me every day?!
Do I believe He will do what He has promised and trust Him that each step in my path in exactly and eternally purposeful?
May He help me to do just that – all of that – for He is faithful and abundant in loving-kindness. His ways are perfect. Confidence in His plan will steady me… always.
Who would have thought, when I started my procrastinated scrubbing job, that I would stand back at the end of it with a changed heart: “how kind the Lord is,” for He has taken away a dark corner of restlessness from my heart! He has shifted my focus from white tile to the honor of His Presence, from gnawing questions to the JOY in simply serving Him … exactly where He has placed me … faithfully!
Read more here! – Luke 1 & 2 – I Thessalonians 5:24 – Isaiah 63:7 – Psalm 18:30 – Psalm 119:1-8