magnify the Lord
One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is to reread the backstory to Jesus’ birth as recorded in the book of Luke. It's the story of Elizabeth and Mary, two badass women who were doubtful and scared out of their minds, but still chose to trust the Lord and his - ridiculously difficult to comprehend - plan for their lives. These two are total girl bosses and are some of the Bible’s best examples of putting your faith above understanding, and leaning hard into the Lord - even when it seems impossible. Every turn in their story could preach for days, but my favorite moment happens when Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth. Both are pregnant by the power of God, and Mary is struck by the overwhelming faithfulness of the Lord. Filled with wonder, Mary sings out:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
The whole song is beautiful and filled with truth about the character of the Lord, but the line that struck a chord in my heart as I read this morning was
“My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Man. What a powerful declaration! The poetry in it hit me hard, and I spent a fat minute wondering what it would look like to have a soul that magnifies the Lord. In my profoundly intellectual moment of contemplation, my mind kept running back to one image - full of childlike wonder and excitement - that best captures what it would look like to have a soul that magnifies the Lord: hidden Mickeys.
If you’ve ever been to Disney world (or suffer from somewhat of a Disney obsession as the Flynn kids certainly did growing up) then you probably know what I am talking about. When designing the parks, Disney’s imagineers decided to leave hidden images of Mickey Mouse’s face around the the resort for observant park goers to find. Over a thousand hidden Mickeys have been spotted on rides, hotels, golf courses, even growing in the greenhouses at Epcot. When not looking for them, you can spend an entire vacation without even knowing they exist, but with open eyes (and four eager siblings all scouting) you’ll find these mouse shaped fingerprints everywhere.
I think that’s what it looks like to have a soul that magnifies the Lord. When we are called to magnify the Lord, god isn’t asking for a hype man. He doesn’t need us to make him bigger, because true power needs no introduction. Instead, what Mary is declaring is a posture of the heart that turns our attention away from ourselves and into the world around us. With magnifying glasses pointed at the seemingly insignificant moments in our lives, we can see the Lord's signature in all things. His handprint permeates every detail of our world, and if we aren’t looking close enough we will so easily miss these miracles of the mundane.
There are some places where the Lord’s glory needs no magnification. We feel his presence on Christmas morning, we easily sense him when at Church or surrounded by friends, and we praise him freely when we receive good news - these aren’t the places that our soul needs to practice magnification.
Instead, the work comes when we are challenged to find the Lord in the places where he seems disconnected. In the daily routine. In the seemingly insignificant random moments of life. In the dark places where it seems his light could never break through. In the seasons when it feels like the Lord has blessed everyone around us and forgotten to leave us a portion of his favor.
Choosing to magnify the Lord doesn’t make these moments easier. It won’t take away your pain, and it’s not a quick fix for suffering, but it’s a posture of the heart that helps us to realize that this too can be part of his plan for us. Mary so easily could have chosen to rest her soul in what she could see: the reality that she was pregnant outside of marriage, that raising the son of God would be… unconventional at best, and the fact that no one in their right mind would ever believe her when she told them what really happened. Instead, Mary did the courageous work of getting out her magnifying glass and looking for the Lord in the midst of her story. She looked through her confusion and worry and found him there, with her. His presence didn’t alter her circumstances, but it changed her heart.
What would it look like for us to take a magnifying glass and seek out the Lord? Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have lenses through which we see the world: perfectionism, judgement, fear, anxiety, scarcity...fill in the blank. How different would our lives be if we traded these filters for the lens of glorification? How could we change if we committed ourselves to the pursuit of God in all things, instead of scrutinizing our lives for all the ways it falls short?
I’m quick to find ways that I could be better, and even quicker to find ways that the world around me could do better too. What if I stopped looking for these flaws, and started to seek the Lord in their place? What if I abandoned my need to know the future for the reckless pursuit of God in all things? I know that I would find more joy in places where fear reside. Pretty sure I would grow in patience and trust, leaning into the truth that all things are done for the good of those who love the Lord.
I don’t know your story, and I don’t know the season you may find yourself in but I can promise you one thing: if your soul takes a magnifying glass to the world around you the darkness before you and the uncertainty that surrounds you would give way to signatures of the divine, hidden in plain sight.