We’ve all had bad parenting days. They are inevitable, and sometimes very hard to handle. Even a woman with a perfect child had occasional bad parenting days. I don’t know about you, but I take some comfort in that.
The only woman who could ever claim to have the perfect child was, of course, Mary. She had given birth to the Son of God, so parenting for her would be a total breeze, right?
The Bible tells us a few things about Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know she was a virgin when the Lord was conceived in her, and we know she was “favored among women.”
We also know she was very human.
I love the book of Luke in the Bible. I love the detailed stories about the people closest to Jesus, including the women. I love Luke’s sensitivity, and his apparent effort to uncover and record on such a personal level all the feelings Jesus evoked in those surrounding Him, including His mother. Luke gives us a lot of valuable and helpful information about Mary.
Case in point. When Jesus was a mere 12 years old (right before those teen years hit), Luke gives an account in the second chapter of the book bearing his name, verses 41 through 51, of a journey Jesus’ family made from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival.
Now, going to celebrate the Passover was a regular event for this good, Jewish family. Many of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ relatives and friends were traveling with them on this 70 mile, 2 to 3 day journey on foot. It must have been quite an entourage.
After the celebration was over, it was time to hit the road and head back home to Nazareth. After traveling for an entire day, Jesus’ parents began searching for him, but he was not there.
Can’t you just envision it? “I thought he was with you!” Mary might have said to Joseph and his relatives.
“But we thought he was with you!” Joseph might have answered in a defensive tone.
Who hasn’t found themselves in that situation? I remember clearly saying those very words once when we inadvertently left Graham at the soccer field. It was not a good feeling. I empathized with Mary.
So where was Jesus?
Unbeknownst to his frantic, panicking mother, he had stayed behind in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Now, losing a child at the Nashville Zoo (yes, that also happened to me) or leaving him at the soccer field was enough to ignite utter panic in my soul, but imagine thinking you had left your son in another city, and it would take an entire day of walking (or running) to get back to him. Again, I empathized with Mary.
When they did finally get back to Jerusalem, and when they finally did find Jesus in the Temple, Mary’s reaction was so completely predictable by any mother who has ever found herself in a similar situation.
Verse 48 quotes Mary as saying, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
Yep, frantic. I think the New Living Translation nailed it. But it may need more exclamation points.
Jesus’ response was, of course, that of a perfect child. He told them, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
The next verse says they didn’t understand what he meant.
Of course they didn’t understand! Mary had just spent a day traveling back, and about three days frantically searching for him everywhere she could think of. Now she is frazzled, collapsing with fatigue and relief. Very human. And very mom.
I would imagine after taking him to task for scaring her to death, she probably dropped to her knees, pulled her son to her and hugged him as tight as she could. He was still her precious gift, and she was ever so thankful to get him back.
Imagine Mary’s state of mind during those days before finding Jesus.
“Here I’ve been entrusted with God’s Son, and I’ve lost Him!”
“I am NEVER taking my eyes off this child again!”
“I though parenting a perfect child would be a LOT easier than this!” She probably thought that as she took him by the arm and ushered him out of the Temple.
Whatever her state of mind was, I take comfort in knowing that even a woman with the perfect son still had parenting issues, just like me.
So what do I take away from this wonderful example of human parenthood?
Well, sometimes I make mistakes. I am human, just like Mary. But God is there to help me get through those tough, parenting moments. He provides encouragement through Biblical accounts, like the one in Luke, and He gives me strength that stems from my love and concern for my children.
During this Season of Christmas, I want to remember that the greatest gift ever given was a child. Each child born is a special gift from God to each parent, and should be regarded as such. It is my greatest desire for you to enjoy your family and your children, no matter what their ages are. And take heart. Even Mother Mary had a bad, pre-teen parenting kind of day.