It’s amazing to think that Mary would have been in her teens when she received the news from Gabriel that she would carry the Messiah. It’s even more significant when we realize that this call had the potential to ruin her standing in the community, break her engagement, and destroy her family. Still, any pain and confusion she experienced here would only be the tip of the sword that would pierce her own heart and soul in the years to come. Nonetheless, her song of praise reflecting Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel suggests a depth and a maturity in her relationship with God.

Mary nurtures Jesus as any good mother would, but from time to time is confronted with the reality that she has to let him go as he becomes all that he is meant to be. And the letting go will take her all the way to the sheer agony of the cross, where she watches helplessly as her firstborn son is crucified. The sword has pierced her soul and torn her in two. Yet this is not the end of Mary’s story. We find a postscript in Acts 1:14, where we see Mary as part of the new church community, praying and waiting to receive the promised Holy Spirit. Traditions suggest she ultimately ended up in Ephesus with John, serving the church there.

We have so much to learn from Mary at every stage of her life. There’s the teenager who embraces her unique calling with a song of praise in the face of staggering cost. There’s the fretting mother as Jesus grows older, attempting to interfere and fix things. There’s the cross, where the dream dies. Then finally Mary’s new life and role in the early church. Mary’s example shows us that life can often lead us into uncharted territory.

Jo Saxton is the author of More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World. Taken from More Than Enchanting by Jo Saxton. Copyright Second Edition (c) 2016 by Jo Saxton. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.