In fact, we identify so strongly with Joseph’s doubt that when he eventually overcomes it, we can take courage and overcome ours.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”17

When the vision ended, Joseph was a believer. And we can prove it. Here’s how:

“When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.”18 But (and here’s the kicker), “he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.”19

See?

Proof.

Proof that Joseph heard from God.

If a man hears a voice and then doesn’t have sex with his new wife as a result of hearing that voice, it means the dude is convinced that something big happened.

How else could you explain a testosterone-filled newly­wed bearing the brunt of the nasty rumors that swirled around them? Joseph must have been absolutely certain that he had heard from God.

If Joseph heard from God, it only makes sense that Mary did too.

101.5 Stories That Stick

Most of us haven’t experienced something so dramatic and life changing. It’s hard to imagine that such a thing could be real.

We know that you’re likely to read a story or two in this book that you don’t believe. You’ll explain away the events in some rational or scientific way. But there will also be at least one story you can’t explain—a story that defies your logic and experience. That account will stick with you.

Like your tongue returning to a piece of popcorn wedged between your teeth, your brain will return to that story and try to make sense of it. In the process, you tell others, hoping they can add insight or understanding that will make it go away.

Perhaps that’s what Mary’s story was like.

The Bible says that Mary treasured the things that were happening and pondered them in her heart—but that was after Jesus was born. Until then, could the events have been a sort of spiritual irritant?

There are lots of details about her pregnancy Mary could have included, like her first trip to the doctor and how cute Jesus looked on that first ultrasound. She could have included more details about the birth, like the fact that the donkey kept braying, and it was really driving Joseph crazy, or the fact that she asked him to sterilize the manger, but they forgot to bring disinfecting wipes. But she didn’t share those details. And Luke didn’t record them. These kinds of things are easily dismissed and forgotten.

The details that Mary dwelled on, the story that she told over and over, was the story of those visions, of meeting Elizabeth and receiving confirmation of her circumstances, and of Joseph’s disbelief until he also had a visitation. Those were the details that stuck in Mary’s teeth—the ones that she returned to, pondered, and treasured in her heart.

So she told the story of the vision—at Jesus’ birthday parties, his bar mitzvah, his graduation from carpentry school, and to the twelve buddies he roamed the countryside with. That stuck-piece-of-popcorn story was passed on until someone like Luke heard the story, investigated it carefully, and wrote down his conclusions so we could believe what he came to believe.

That it is true.

Do you believe it is true?

Or are you still picking at your teeth?

Are there other God stories that have you stuck?

What if you could actually experience such stories for yourself?

How would that change what you think about how God communicates?

It’s not likely you will have a virgin birth or lead an army into battle. But what if God did something equally improbable for your time and circumstances? Would that allow you to consider whether he could have done something similar for someone else?