My single life has been filled with plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns. Now that I have embarked on parenthood, it is no different. In fact, it’s abundantly worse…oh yeah, it’s got the expected ups and downs, twists and turns. Parenting, however, is filled with unpredictable adventures, complete with backs and fourths, side steps, zigs, zags, abrupt stops and starts, all when I am least prepared.
When I find myself floundering to find the right words in a hard situation, my mind often goes to Mary, the mother of the Son of God. I often wonder if she ever wrestled with finding the right words. I find myself thinking about the unspoken years of raising Jesus and am curious if she stumbled through conversations, was misunderstood, or botched messages while talking to him. Did Jesus ask her questions that stopped her in HER tracks? I am curious if she ever was just busy doing her day-to-day tasks when Jesus came in and asked her, “Mom…where do babies come from?” Or did he just know.
Of course, the bible spotlights her son, which as it very well should. But I do find myself thinking about the parents who were involved in raising only the most flawless of people to walk this earth. Were they ever stressed? Did they think about his safety? Did they attempt to lay out expectations for him - you know, to do his homework, take out the garbage or make his bed? Did he ever miss curfew? Did he even have one?
Did Mary wake up in the middle of the night with fleeting thoughts, worries and, well, hot flashes? Did she internally feel so out of control at times that she couldn’t face people? Did she have nights where she sat alone in the garage, trying to find the courage to gather her composure before walking into the house? I wonder if she ever felt like things were coming in too fast for her to process. Or was she…ah-hem…stronger than me?
The answer is yes. Yes, Mary was strong. Yes. Mary struggled. She struggled because she was…a mom.
I know she had some sleepless nights. I am certain her heart broke a few times over the years. No parent is exempt from that. After all, God gave us emotions to feel, so I am sure she did just that…she felt. Just like I feel. As my wandering mind reminds me, even God feels – both the good and the worst of the worst.
Now, I have spent a lot of time trying to find parenting secrets in the bible…specifically, regarding Mary and Joseph. To my obvious expectation, there isn’t a ton. There is a lot about personal behavior advice, but the parent story I find myself relating to is the story of Jesus in the temple. In Luke 2:41-52, Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem for Passover and bring little Jesus. After the days long celebration, they packed up and went home, without their son. I too, have left without one of them only to discover she was missing miles down the road. It comforts me to know that Mary and Joseph did the same. To include this in the bible reassures me that none of us are perfect. This seems to be more of a depiction about a whole heap of things going on around Jesus' parents, more than it is a conclusion of care about him. I know how much I love my kids, and I have done this. Just like this story in the bible, it is an amusing story after the fact. God probably knows it happens more often than any one of us could admit to each other.
I probably had read this temple story as a younger, childless Merianne Colletti and thought nothing of it. But now that I am a parent, I read this scripture and all I can do is think…this poor mom.
If Mary is like me, I bet Mary was beyond hysterical. If she is anything like me, the stage from discovery of the missing child would go from the careless feeling of misplacing my coffee mug, to the sudden, time-stopping, vomit-inducing, hands-shaking, panic of the loss of the very baby she has been blessed…no CHOSEN…to raise. Now, don’t get me wrong, every soul is an important soul. But she misplaced the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD! Yeah, that’s pressure of unimaginable proportion.
OH! How the painful horror must have set in, slowing time so that minutes must have ticked by like years. The fleeting thoughts of whether Jesus was safe or in danger consumed her. If you have ever lost your kid, you know this ache. Or how about the pure sadness at the thought of this sweet, big-eyed, chubby cheeked boy innocently terrified at the thought of being left alone while his security - his parents - left him behind. If you have ever been the kid left behind, you know this ache. I have been privileged to be both. What I can be certain of is that Joseph didn’t move fast enough for her. I can only imagine the words exchanged between them as they ran back to Jerusalem.
We all have been here. Whether under the same circumstances or some other frustrating event, our kids have left us a pile of panic. I must believe Mary was no different than any of us. This is probably why they didn’t give Mary her own chapter in the bible. Can you imagine what she would have written? I am pretty sure humanity would have stopped there.
But I digress…
I am sure she was angry; at herself and, at Jesus. The bible reads that Mary and Joseph ask Jesus in Luke 2:48. “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried trying to find you.” It’s times like these when I am reminded that emotions are downplayed in text form. I can only imagine that exchange was not as calm as I so hastily read today. After all, she was…a mom.
When we are angry at situations like these, does it mean that our child has done wrong? Jesus made a decision. Jesus made a decision that was best for HIM at the time. Isn’t that what we are trying to raise? Kids that become adults that can make decisions, good decisions, that will bring them closer to the goal of being good people? I keep reminding myself, there is no on/off switch. These growth moments are a stretch of our comfort; letting go and stepping back. I can assure you, looking back on all of the growth moments my kids have had, my hand has been forced by their agenda, and certainly not mine, in EVERY SINGLE ONE. I think I can admit, if I followed my agenda, they would stay snuggly, small, and needing my wisdom and love all the days of my life.
After Mary and Joseph see Jesus is safe, they took that well-earned deep sigh of relief, knowing Jesus was fine...THREE DAYS LATER! Jesus was where we all should find ourselves at some point of our lives…in our Father’s house. But this does not discredit the absolute darkness that engulfed Mary and Joseph for THREE days…until they found him. I find myself asking, are the first words that would have come from my mouth AT THIS MOMENT going to help or hinder the situation? In moments like these, am I speaking anxiety out of my own panicked feelings I lived for THREE days, or are the words going to be from the pure love of God celebrating that Jesus was safe? After all, Jesus made a decision! While I wouldn’t agree with how he went about it, he certainly didn’t make the poorer decision to hang back to smoke pot under the bleachers at a high school football game.
I guess it begs the question, do parents have the right to be mad at their son [or daughter] when what he or she decides on their own turns out to be the very act that would help them engage in their life? I don’t know about you, but I would want this boy to feel a hint of the heartache I felt wondering if he was okay. I would plot and plan the proper punishment to “teach a lesson.” But is the lesson I want to teach more important than the celebration of the decision he made to SEEK Jewish teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions? I mean “all who heard him were amazed at his intelligent answers.” [Luke 2: 47] Any parent would be proud.
In today’s parenting day and age, Jesus would have been sent to his room without dinner and grounded for eternity. After that, he would have to write 100 times how he would promise to tell his parents where he was at all times. There would be an apology note written to the local police department for getting them involved in the search. I am sure if Mary was a parent of today, she would be on the phone, drinking her Starbucks [or better yet, a justifiable heavy pour of wine], telling her bestie, “Can you even believe…?” Ouch, personal check point here.
I am comforted to know that parenting was hard then too. Not that I wish any of these gut-wrenching ups and downs on anyone else, but it is nice to know that emotions, even parenting emotions, are REAL, no matter the century.
Yes, I am an overthinker. I have let this story take me down the dark rabbit hole of thought, complete with many surprise twists and turns of the underground maze thanks to my overthinking.
What I can say from reading about this very stressful parenting event is that the desire to overthink about this and other parenting situations I have found myself in is NORMAL. As I read more about Mary in the bible, I see she had feelings like mine as a mom of today. Yeah, Mary overthought.
In Luke 2:16-19, after Jesus was born and the angels appeared to the Shepherds, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph to tell them what the angel said about their sweet boy. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them.
She thought DEEPLY about them.
In Luke 2:51, after they found Jesus in the temple from three days of agony, (I still can’t EVEN…) his mother treasured all these things in her heart. I am not going to lie, I have looked at all translations of this verse in hopes to find the version where is says, “Mary made him eat soap until he told her he would NEVER do this again for all of his remaining days.” The closest I could find was the Message translation where she “held these things dearly, deep within her…” Girl! I KNOW you did.
I find myself thinking DEEPLY when it comes to my kids’ lives.
But is this the healthiest activity for the life God gave ME to live? What good comes from me wasting thought on this? Think about Mary as she laid her head down that night, after her THREE day panic, trying to find her lost son. The racing her heart felt, the arguments she had with her husband, the worry, anxiety, and emptiness she felt. All of it. What a waste of her headspace if she would have focused on the would’ve…could’ve…should’ve. At the end of this day, the savior is safe. The crisis is over! The SAVIOR HAS BEEN FOUND! Isn’t that enough? Or does she need to add the punishment layer on top of it…you know, to make her feel better.
I need to remind myself daily that Mary overthinking about things through Jesus’ life didn’t save him from the eventual torture and death he would experience. Her continued thinking didn’t prevent others assuming the worst of her because of her true miracle pregnancy. Her endless thoughts did not prevent the world from thinking the worst of her kid. It’s probably why the bible doesn’t focus on it. It is fruitless. It does, though, comfort me to read. I know it robbed her of sleep, like this consistent parent mind exercise does to me.
In reality, my overthinking isn’t going to change the outcome. The fact is I am not the ultimate planner for my children’s lives. Fighting my own need for control for MY momma heart in hopes to ease my parent ache is MY daily challenge.
How do I handle these challenges? I Put On My Armor.
I need to remember that, like me, Mary suffered through parenting. As it says in Luke 2:35, “and you Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger.” Yeah, I get that too. I will not pretend to know the pain Mary ultimately did watching her son die the most horrific death imaginable, but I do get the parent “hurt.”
I have concluded that the bible doesn’t speak of the details about raising Jesus because, as painful as this is to say, it was insignificant. In today’s day and age, there are so many resources to parenting – books, support groups, counseling. But the truth is, it all doesn’t matter. My job as a parent, from what I am piecing together with my overworked brain, is that God’s got them. I have to trust that.
If we truly believe that God made us in our mother’s womb, (Pslam 139:13), and that God’s timing rules all [Ecclesiastes 3:1], then I also need to believe that God made all parts of us…and our children – the physical and the mental. God knows my kids. He knows their journey. The only thing God asks us to do is love them; keep them moving forward on this righteous road for His purpose during their life (Ephesians 6:4). It’s not so much about each side-step they take, just like we did when we were their age.
This world is EVIL. And some could even argue that it is more evil than previous generations. I will save that debate for another time. No doubt, evil pulses all around us every day. Evil is distant when it doesn’t touch us, and extremely present when it does, no matter the decade. We need to serve God so that we can thwart it, in Jesus’ name. But for all the other things – what if I could…dare I say this…just lighten up on the small things?
My kids will ultimately make decisions for themselves, just like I did, which led me to having them in the first place. That decision has brought me the most unspeakable joy and pain I could ever imagine. I wouldn’t change it for ANYTHING.
I am a mom, just like Mary. And being a mom is stressful and, at times, painful...even unfair. I would like to believe in the natural order of things where I can rest easy knowing each generation will live full lives and die at a ripe old age, painlessly in our sleep. Unfortunately, the evil on this earth, and its free-thinking sinners, don’t promise this. Nor did God, not even to Mary. The only thing I can rest my tired heart on is the comfort in knowing God’s got us. Just like God had Mary. After 3,000 years, it’s the one thing that has truly remained true, and it will be the one and only truth for 3,000 more.
-Written With Much Love,
March 15, 2023
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