Learning to accept childhood independence

Hello and happy new year to you all! I’m Jane Lowe and today is the Eve of Epiphany: the penultimate day of the Christmas season, and also of our Maranatha series from St. Mary’s Church Thorpe.  Welcome!

In today’s Gospel reading, Luke introduces us to some new concepts that we – and Jesus’ parents for that matter — have to get our heads around. For the very first time in the story of Jesus’ life, Luke shows us not a baby but an adolescent, or budding teenager in today’s terms. A young man who does two things for the first time: He acts independently of, or perhaps even in defiance of his parents, and he speaks for himself. Can you imagine? Well, yes I’m sure you can if you have ever had teenage children, or been a teenager yourself for that matter.

Here is Luke’s story, as it appears in Chapter 2, verses 41 to 52 of the New Testament:

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down and came to Nazareth,

and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man.

Now, I can tell you that if I had been Jesus’ mother and had found him after three days of frantically searching, I think I would have used a bit harsher language, something like “What were you THINKING?? You scared us to death”! But I reckon Mary was able to remain relatively calm because God presented her with one of those spiritual “a ha” moments, a sudden and great revelation or realisation, an epiphany of her own. And that was that her “baby” Jesus was indeed, as promised all those years before, God’s own chosen Son, and she and Joseph were merely his earthly guardians and caretakers.

Wow! That’s quite a lesson for any parents to learn, isn’t it? That their beloved child doesn’t really belong to them, but to God. But, of course, eventually we know it’s true. As parents, we know that at some point we must “let go” of our children, in order to let them really grow and develop, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Just as Jesus must eventually move from Mary and Joseph’s home to his Father’s home, so we all, as Christians, are called to leave our comfort zones, often letting go of what is safe and familiar, and move on to a bigger place spiritually, to our Father’s place.

Leaving home does not necessarily mean leaving our physical or geographical home, though sometimes it might. It does mean examining and re-prioritising the values, beliefs and relationships that establish our identity and give our life meaning and significance. It means letting go of an identity that is limited to our biological family, community, job, or social, economic or ethnic group, and trusting that who we are is who we are in God. We may be leaving our own individual comfort zones, but we will be joining our Father’s house, where a place at the banquet table of life is always set for us.

I’d like to close with the words of Khalil Gibran, from a piece entitled “On Children”:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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