When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, 'Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?' But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:48-52).
The question falls from her lips as panic ebbs into relief. This woman, whom God calls Mother, looks at Jesus after a frantic search for him, and sees his divinity being unveiled. She knows he has not really been lost. He has been God. And in that recognition, the first thing she does is ask him a question.
I don't know if you have felt it before: the pressure to tuck away your questions and your doubts. I am quite certain you have. It seems to have seeped its way into our collective Christian consciousness: this mindset that good girls don’t question God. But, oh, how different our Jesus can be from us, his followers. Here he is—a boy, out on his own for the first time, revealing just a hint of who he is publicly—and he allows himself to be questioned by his very first follower, Mary.
Can you imagine Mary’s panic as she searched for him in their traveling party and realized he wasn’t there? And what must her heart have felt for those three days that she and Joseph searched the noise and the bustle of Jerusalem for their little boy?
When she finally finds him safe in the temple, I am sure Mary was relieved. But then, the fear of the last days spills over with a question. It is the question that is really at the heart of every question we still ask him today, isn’t it? “Why have you done this to us?” (Lk 2:48)
It spills over from our very human nature. We cannot wrap our heads around the divine nature of God, who does things so very differently than we would have. Mary, she who lived closest to the growing Man-God and knew him most intimately of all, finds herself gripped by the sudden fear that she has lost him, the boy who is her son and her God. She searches all the familiar places first and then through the unfamiliar jumble of Jerusalem’s streets.
Mary knew Jesus. She knew who he was and what he was about. She bore him and nursed him and sang him lullabies. She was a woman whose faith was not stained by fault. And yet still she felt the same panicked fear—the fear of suddenly finding Jesus out of our reach. She knew the flush of anxiety in searching wild, unfamiliar places for him. And the great relief of realizing that, of course, he was in his Father’s house.
If you were to ask me what the greatest lesson I have learned from grief and our life on the mission fields is, it would undoubtedly be this: that we can be real with Jesus. He not only accepts this, but he honors our vulnerability and drawing nearer to him as something sacred.
The early weeks and months of my family's life in Costa Rica were desperately lonely for me. My heart hurt nearly all the time. As the quiet settled over my life, I saw how many deep wounds I had been bandaging up and pretending weren’t there. Without the distracting swirl of life around me, I could no longer ignore their throbbing pain. I longed for connection, to have someone who knew my deeply and fully draw near, see my oozing wounds, and hold my hand through the pain of healing.
I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be Jesus. I knew it had to be him, that he was the only one who could truly heal my deepest hurts, but I wondered if maybe he would think I had failed. I wondered if he would be disgusted with me. You see, the uncovering of those wounds also meant taking the tourniquet off the flood of questions and doubts I had been stuffing down inside. But I was wrong in so many ways. And as soon as I laid my wounded heart with all its questions bare before him and felt him draw near, I knew it. I hope this is as much of a relief to your heart as it still is to mine.
We walk in faith beside the woman the Messiah called Mother. We ask our questions in the company of her whose faith was unquestioned. And we can press in and ponder his answer quiet and long with her too. Because our questions are valid and he waits in the house of the Father to answer us. Do not be afraid to search for him and to ask him what your heart needs to know.
Let Us Pray
Dear Lord: Make me a woman who has faith like Mary’s, a faith that notices you are missing above the noise and bustle of the world around me; a faith that seeks you until you are found. Let me be unafraid to clear the air when our intimacy is at stake and to know that my God became a boy who could teach the teachers, and then a man who saves the sinners. Amen.