“She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them in the Inn.” Luke 2:7
As Joseph and Mary entered Bethlehem, road-weary and exhausted, Mary may have already been experiencing her first contractions. Joseph had just promised Mary’s father that he would take care of his daughter. He had promised God he would take care of His son. Yet he is facing the reality that he would not even be able to provide a warm, safe, interior space for Mary to give birth. There would be no birthing bed, no midwife, no clean linens in which to wrap the newborn. Joseph frantically asks around as Mary waits patiently on the donkey, in too much pain to focus on much else. He cannot believe he did not consider how busy Bethlehem would be as people from all over traveled there for the census. They should have left sooner. He should have been more prepared. How would he explain to Mary’s father that he had failed? How would he explain to God??
Ashamed and dejected, Joseph returns to Mary to let her know the truth. He was not worthy of her or God because he could not even take care of her in this pivotal moment of their lives. He cannot even look her in the eye. “I’m so sorry, Mary. I asked everywhere. The only place I was able to get for us is a space with the animals outside one of the Inns.” There is silence. Joseph slowly looks up, sure he is going to meet the disappointed gaze of the woman he loves. But that is not Mary’s way. “Joseph” she says, “You did not fail me. You remained with me after the news I was pregnant. You brought me to Bethlehem with you, safely, even though the journey would have been so much easier for you alone. You found shelter for me, even if it is not inside a fancy Inn. You are a good man, Joseph, in my eyes and God’s.”
How often do we beat ourselves up for falling short of our own expectations of ourselves or the expectations we believe others (or God) have of us? How does this impact our trust in God, who works through our failures? Because Joseph got to Bethlehem late, because he did not do all the right things, because he did not get a room in the Inn, God had space to work a miracle. It allowed for the humility of a King born in a place fit for animals. It allowed for the symbolism of a baby wrapped in the same swaddling clothes in which shepherds wrap their newborn lambs. It allowed for an open door for visitors to pay homage to their Messiah.
Let go. Let God. As cliche as that is. Open yourself to miracles and gifts that only happen when you allow God space to work through your shortcomings. Trust in a God who writes straight with our crooked lines and masterpieces of our mistakes. Creativity is born of the willingness to make mistakes and turn those mistakes into something beautiful. Our God is the master artist. Allow Him to do His work.