I was tired. Overworked. Exhausted by the feel of small fingers and incessant demands and naps that weren’t taken.
All three were young. One was five; the others were three and one.
As we walked the aisles of the grocery store, I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this mothering thing. I love my children and I’ve always wanted nothing more than to be a mom. No, I didn’t think it was going to be easy but I just didn’t think it would be so hard.
I turned to grab the peanut butter and then . . .
He was gone.
My three year old. Gone.
There is no panic like the panic a mother feels when she can’t has can’t find one of her babies.
I began to frantically walk the aisles, me with my disheveled hair and need-to-be-washed yoga pants. I faked a calm cry of his name. My other two children began to sense the anxiety.
Two minutes later, a kind man with two of his own children brought my wandering boy to me.
“Ma’am, is this your son?” he asked.
And I wish I could tell you I was a kind and loving mother who welcomed her child back with a big hug and a smile.
But I wasn’t. I was angry. Frustrated. Irritated that my three year old (!) didn’t stay with us.
I still think of that man and wonder if he feels he did the right thing, returning my son to me.
Of course, after he left and we all stopped to allow our hearts time to recover, I did welcome him back with a hug and was indeed able to teach him.
Yet I still remember every detail of that moment as though it just happened this morning.
And apparently, this has been happening for generations. Mary was no stranger to the panic a mother feels when her child is lost:
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. – Luke 2:41-51
You know what’s funny about this story? It’s the only story found in the Bible about Jesus’ childhood. So why did Mary choose this story, of all the stories she could have told of his childhood, to share with the apostles?
In Not a Silent Night, Adam Hamilton explains the Greek word Luke uses to describe how Mary and Joseph felt is odunao. Odunao is also used in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to describe the torments of hell.
Jesus had put his parents through a living hell when he could not be found. Yes, even the Savior of all mankind gave his parents fits.
Mary remembered this story because it was traumatic but it was also a defining moment, for it was then Jesus identified God as His father.
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you, ” Mary asked.
“Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” He answered. (emphasis mine)
And here’s a fun fact for you . . . Did you know many churches confirm their children at the age of twelve because that’s when Jesus claimed God to be His father?
When Mary and Joseph found Jesus, those around Him were in awe. The Greek words used to describe their awe are existemi, ekplesso and thambeo. These three words mean something along the lines of “blown away,” utterly amazed and in awe.
So often, we think of Jesus’ birth during Christmas and his death during Easter. However, there’s more to it than Him coming to die for our sins. Of course, that’s a big reason why He came but sometimes His other purpose gets overshadowed by the Big Purpose.
Jesus also came to be our teacher. As Hamilton says, ” . . . he was born to show us the way, teach us the truth and invite us to find life.”
“How can He do this when He isn’t even here anymore?” I’ve heard it asked.
But He is here. He’s here in scripture. In the Holy Spirit. In the teachings of our parents who know Jesus, too.
Jesus has taught us and we teach our children.
Let’s teach our children well, friends.
This week, answer any or all of the following in the comment section:
1. Have you ever lost a child while out with him or her? What did you do and how did you find him or her?
2. Jesus is a teacher. What have you learned from His thus far in your relationship with Him?
3. In your opinion, what of Jesus’ teachings was most impactful? Why? (Ideas: The Sermon on the Mount, the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Parable of Good Samaritan . . . )
4. Anything else catch your attention in Chapter Three?