Clearly, family reunions are one of the benchmark memories of childhood, right? If you’ve never been to one, then you may not quite understand the depth of your family history/insanity. But there may be a moment in time that you can relate to in Mary’s experience.
Reading the story of Jesus’ ‘annual family vacation’ to Jerusalem, my mind’s eye pictured a family reunion trip with all the relatives shuffling along, side by side, coolers packed and cousins giggling as they walked together, focused on celebrating their freedom from the bondage of slavery. Every adult cared for their nieces and nephews as though they were their own. It only makes sense to me because it says that Jesus’ parents didn’t miss him at first because they ‘assumed he was among the other travelers.’ Parents usually don’t let their treasures wander down the road with strangers, although I’m sure there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd!
But then, by evening, he didn’t show up! So they did what any good parent would do: they began to search for him. Not finding him, they turned around and headed back to Jerusalem, in search of their son, God in the flesh~!
I don’t know about you, but after travelling on foot for a whole day, finding your son missing and needing to head BACK to Jerusalem again for another twenty some odd miles, in the dark, in search of your child with the added stress of thieves and criminals, and being fatigued , I think I would be a mess. (I know, you’re thinking, ‘He was God’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were thinking rationally at three a.m.!) And even though the Word says Jesus was twelve and things were definitely much different than they are now, he was The Son of God and they were responsible for him.
It’s at this point that I began weeping as I remembered events in our life when more than one of our children were missing from our sight at different times. It’s in those moments that one truly remembers what’s important.
One Saturday we went to a beach with some friends. Our son, Joshua, about five at the time, wandered away, for almost forty five minutes and the panic we felt is indescribable. When we finally found him walking towards us, his response was, “I thought you were gone, so I was looking for you!” He’d been walking up and down the beach in SEARCH OF US! Just writing about it makes my heart race!
That same child, and he was an easy-going, obedient little boy, somehow walked out of a building we were in without us and wandered down the street, thinking we’d left without him. I think I’ve blocked out the length of time he was gone, but someone brought him back into the store as we were getting help to find him…oh my, these memories take me back and make me so grateful that God in heaven cares for my kids much better than I ever could!
Lest my heart rate go any higher, let me finish…
As the story goes on, they do find him…but NOT FOR THREE DAYS!!
Three days of not knowing where their child was. Did they leave their other kiddos behind in the care of the relatives? Did they have money to eat somewhere? Where did they sleep-if they did sleep at all? (I am certain I wouldn’t have slept and I believe everyone on Facebook would be aware and praying!) I imagine all these things would have affected Mary’s attitude towards Jesus when they did, in fact, find him in the Temple.
Imagine Mary losing Emmanuel, along with her mounting emotions, unfounded fears, and uncommunicated expectations, and it’s not surprising to imagine her scold him the way she did: “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
I am wrestling with the depth of those two sentences. Jesus, YOU DID THIS TO US. Why? We’re your mother and father…
Yet, our Savior, Jesus, God in the flesh, dealt with her firmly and lovingly by replying (and remember: he’s twelve years old!),
“But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
I believe, maybe for the first time, Jesus was making it very clear that He really was God and they had to begin to let go…(another post for another day…)
Sadly, they didn’t understand what he meant. Do we really understand sometimes when our kids tell us things that maybe God wants us to hear? Talk about swallowing a hard pill. I can’t imagine being the parent of the Son of God! I find parenting twins God’s way to be only accomplished on my face, before His throne, crying out for strength!
Even in her frantic state, the Word says:
“And His mother stored all these things in her heart.”
Though it doesn’t specifically say this, I am convinced she didn’t condemn herself for her shortcomings. She pondered: weighed, tested and proved His words. It would be another twenty-one years of enjoying her firstborn son before she would experience, firsthand, the manifestation of all her years of his care and her willingness to love him with all her heart. That is evidenced at the beginning of his public ministry when she told Jesus there wasn’t any wine left and he basically told her that it wasn’t his problem, but she’ ignored that remark and told the servants to ‘do whatever He tells you.’
Each of us must carry our own cross of mothering God’s way. We fail. We say the wrong things. We open our mouth when we need to keep it shut. Yet, God isn’t a condemning God. He is love. He is for us. Always. And He gives us influence with our sons as time goes on, despite our mistakes.
If you’ve spoken out of turn, blamed your child for a problem you caused by your own fears or worries, do as Mary did…ponder God’s Word. Remember your son or daughter isn’t yours anyway. They belong to God and He is able to hold them, even if they run away or wander off the path.
I imagine this ‘family vacation’ was THE trip Mary might have remembered every year as they walked the road to Jerusalem with family and friends, laughing about how Jesus was the family ‘wanderer’, Him winking with that grin that she knew meant, “I love you, mom.”
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