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Category Archives: Mothers of the Bible

Mary: Parenting the Adult & Crucifixion

Dear God, as I think about trying to get into Mary’s (Jesus’s mother) skin, I think I want to break it into four parts:

  • Conception, Pregnancy & Birth
  • Parenting the Child
  • Parenting the Adult & Crucifixion
  • Resurrection & Post-Ascension

Frankly, I think these three years must have been a mystery to Mary. It had to have made no sense to her. I don’t know how much Jesus revealed to her about the revelations he was having as he matured. Did he tell her he was sensing he would be a sacrifice and not a conqueror? What were his relationships with her other children like? How much was she paying attention to him at this point vs. loving her other children? What were her expectations on Jesus as she carried the knowledge from her first angel visit up to this point?

The Wedding

This how John introduces us to Mary. Really, we don’t get too many Mary stories during Jesus’s adulthood, but this is the first one.

One thing that is always lost in written form is town of voice and body language. I wish we could hear the exchange between Jesus and Mary here. When Mary went to Jesus with the wine concern, was she playful? Did she have that little motherly twinkle in her eye that passively communicated to Jesus what she wanted him to do? And was his reply said in a frustrated or playful manner? Was he exasperated or was he just playing a game that had played many times before. The story certainly has a feel for not being the first time.

What we do know is that Mary understands he has special abilities. He is supernatural. He can creatively solve this problem and many others like them. I wonder what kinds of other expectations she had of him over the next three years that he didn’t yield to. I also think it’s important to remember that she is likely the last living person who experienced the angel visits firsthand. Joseph is likely dead. So too are Elizabeth and Zechariah. She doesn’t have anyone to back her up–to talk this through with. We all often need at least one other voice to help us sort things out sometimes. Our decision making and ability to evaluate a situation is often compromised when we do it in isolation. We are better in community. In Mary’s case, there simply was no one else at this point who could help her understand what was happening.

I also wonder why kinds of conversations she and Joseph had about Jesus while Joseph was living. Did they share their hopes and dreams for him and his life? Did they see liberation and world domination for Israel through him?

Jesus’s Mother and Brothers

I’m so glad Matthew, Mark, and Luke gave us this story of Jesus speaking and his mother and brothers outside asking to speak with him. It’s interesting that this happens in Matthew 12:38-50, and then Matthew gives us a chapter later in Matthew 13:53-58 the story of Jesus being rejected in the temple.

I can’t help but wonder what the family dynamics were like at this point. I know that family members talk about each other with each other. I can imagine Jesus’s siblings talking with Mary, not having personal experience with the angel visits, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna and Simeon, the shepherds, the wise men, etc. I can hear them questioning Jesus’s decisions and telling Mary he’s out of control. On the one hand, this seems like a big leap on my part, but the evidence in chapters 12 and 13 of Matthew is compelling. First, we know they want him to come out to them, away from being the center of a crowd and he rejects it. The intimation for me is that they were trying to correct him and control him. They didn’t trust him and believe in what he was doing. That’s the siblings anyway. Did Mary share those thoughts or was she badgered into them by his siblings. Was she legit concerned, or was she giving in to the concerns of her other children.

Regardless, it’s in chapter 13 that Jesus acknowledged that he feels neglected by his family. Much like movie lines that get misquoted and then taken as fact, the passage of Jesus’s rejection in the temple in Matthew 13:53-58. Verse 57 is the one we often quote as, “A prophet is without honor is his hometown.” But there is something else added to the end, and I checked the different translations to make sure they were consistent in this and they were. The New Living Translation quotes Jesus as saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household.” (Emphasis mine) He obviously felt disrespected by his siblings at a minimum. Was Mary part of this skeptical disrespect too? All I can say is that Matthew made her a part of the first story and then included her as one of the people named by the crowd in the temple. It feels like she was not sure what was going on with Jesus or what to believe.

Crucifixion

So here we are. Seemingly, the end of the road for her son. There’s a song called, “Then Came the Morning.” I’ve mentioned it in these prayers before. The second verse talks about Mary: “The angel. The star. The kings from afar. The wedding. The water. The wine. Now it was done. They’d taken her son. Wasted before his time. She knew it was true. She’d watched him die too. She’d heard them call him, ‘Just a man.’ But deep in her heart she knew from the start somehow her son would live again.” Now, I’m not really down with that last part. I don’t see any evidence that she knew deep in her heart he’d rise again. As I’ve told you before, it’s like Princess Leia saying she’d known all along that she was Luke’s sister. No she didn’t.

But I digress. As she stood next to John at the foot of the cross, what must she have been thinking? Did Simeon’s words from Luke 2 in the temple come back to her: “This child is destined to cause the rising and falling of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Did she look around at the Pharisees and see their hearts revealed? Was she disillusioned with her Jewish leadership? And as for her own soul. Did she have regrets as a mother? Did she wish she had stopped Jesus from being so provocative? Was it all a waste of time? And how did God feel about all of this? Where were you in this?

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I offer you everything today. You know what’s on my heart. I don’t know where all of this is going? I don’t know how to parent my adult children. I don’t know so much. Teach me today. Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, on this Good Friday, the day that represents this terrible beating and crucifixion, teach me today.

I pray this all under your authority, grateful for you and everything you are to me,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2023 in Mothers of the Bible

 

Mary: Parenting the Child

Dear God, as I think about trying to get into Mary’s (Jesus’s mother) skin, I think I want to break it into four parts:

  • Conception, Pregnancy & Birth
  • Parenting the Child
  • Parenting the Adult & Crucifixion
  • Resurrection & Post-Ascension

So today I want to look at the second part. From presenting Jesus at the temple through finding him at the temple as a boy (temple to temple, so to speak, we get a look at what her life and perspective might have been like as the mother of God’s son.

Presenting at the Temple

This story to me is all about the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, but it starts with the fact that this poor couple was doing their duty, but they could barely afford to do it. But offering the two young pigeons as a sacrifice also reminds me that the least of the sacrifices was good enough for Jesus. You don’t have to have great resources to give a child everything he or she needs.

But back to Simeon and Anna. Simeon tells gives her two important pieces of information. First, he affirms to her that this child is who she and Joseph think he is. He calls Jesus his salvation and talks about how he will be a light for Gentiles and glory for Israel. Then he gives them a warning: He will cause many in Israel to rise and fall, the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed, and a sword will pierce Mary’s soul. As far as I can tell, this is the first time anyone has told Mary that this will be a difficult journey.

Then Anna came up and affirmed to Mary and Joseph that Jesus was special, even telling everyone around how special this child would be. This was a day of affirmation, but there was obviously a warning for Mary as well that she carried with her the rest of her life.

The Wise Men

This is my first time to use any scripture from Matthew to talk about Mary. As the wise men arrive, Matthew 2 tells us, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” I wish Matthew gave us just a little more about these guys. I know other, non-New Testament sources give some more details, but I wish they were here because I’m wanting to stick to what’s actually in the text of the new Testament. But I think the big thing to know here is that Mary got another affirmation from these men, however many of them there were. I also have theories on what Mary and Joseph used the gifts for, but that’s another topic.

The Flight to Egypt

Here’s another story we get from Matthew. Luke skips all of the Egypt stuff and has them going straight to Nazareth, but Matthew takes us to Egypt and then eventually back to Nazareth in an indirect way. But taking the story of Joseph being told in a dream to go to Egypt and seeing it from Mary’s perspective, once I made up this dialogue that could have happened in the middle of the night between them:

Joseph: Mary! Mary, wake up!

Mary: What? What is it?

Joseph: We have to go.

Mary: What do you mean, “We have to go”? Go where?

Joseph: Egypt

Mary: Egypt?!? What are you talking about? Can’t we talk about this in the morning?

Joseph: No. The angel said we have to go immediately.

Mary: You saw an angel?

Joseph: Yes, the angel came to me like he did before and told me, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”

Mary: What?!? Are you sure that’s what he said?

Joseph: As sure as I was when he visited me last time and told me to marry you.

Mary: Okay, lets go!

For a mom to know that the king is out to kill her son–I cannot imagine what kind of fear that would generate. You have to protect the boy at all costs. He’s your son so you want to protect him anyway, but given that this was also God’s son, the protection of Jesus was paramount. This call to raise God’s son was going to cost both Mary and Joseph dearly. It was not an easy road. In fact, it was a particularly hard road. She gave up a lot to be Jesus’s mother.

Back to Israel and Nazareth

I cannot help but wonder how Mary felt about being sent home and going back to Nazareth. Would her family believe her about Jesus? Was it going to be okay for Jesus to grow up there? Would it be okay for her and Joseph? Would he be safe? So, so much uncertainty.

They Lost Jesus

I want to take some time to just sit in the period between when they realized Jesus was gone and they found him. What amazing fear they must have had! Was he taken by the soldiers and the current king? Was he dead? Where was he? This was God’s son. Had they messed up and done a bad job of parenting him? Had they failed? Was it all for nothing?

I’ve known parents to have lost their children at places like the store or the local county fair. Those moments are moments of terror. Thankfully, in the cases of the people I’ve known, they were only moments and the children were quickly found. But those minutes or hours were unbelievably stressful to them. I can only imagine how much more so given the fact that Jesus had been pursued by Herod in the past. That hundreds or thousands of children had died as a result. Had it finally come to pass that they had gotten him? Had Herod or whomever the king at the time was won?

The other side of this is how it violated trust that Mary and Joseph had obviously put in Jesus. They trusted him to not do things like this. I would imagine that their first instinct was probably not that he had wandered off on his own.

Found

It took them three days–THREE DAYS–to find him. When they found him he was in the temple with the teachers, listening and asking questions.

Mary’s psyche is telling: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” She was that combination of angry and thrilled all at once. The relief combined with the anger must have been incredible. But then what was she to make of him being in the temple? With the teachers? What did all of this mean? How will it play out?

Father, I find myself asking a lot of questions in these prayers, both on my behalf and Mary’s. The truth is that she was doing her best to love and care for this boy, but there was no possible way she could know what you had in store for Jesus. How could she? There’s no way I knew then or I know now what you are doing not only in my own life, but in the lives of my children too. I have no idea. But I know I love them. I know I’m rooting for them and their happiness. I’m rooting for them to find peace. I’m rooting for how they know you. My job, like Mary’s, is to do what I can to be the parent you need me to be while not getting in the way of what you are trying to do. Help me to be exactly what you need me to be today.

I pray all of this in your Holy Name,

Amen

 
 

Ruth 1:3-5

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:3-5

Dear God, I have been guilty of something regarding Naomi, and I am sorry. I have judged her for feeling so rejected by you and the whole “call me Mara” thing she says a few verses later. But I have not appreciated the mourning of a woman now facing life alone. The intimidation of it–especially in a culture where women had very little agency or ability to provide for themselves. I mean, there is a reason men had multiple wives. One basic one is that the women needed someone to provide for them because they wouldn’t be able to provide for themselves.

But on a basic level, Naomi has experienced tremendous loss. It’s one thing to lose your husband. Even today, men and women get married with the knowledge that it’s likely one of them will die before the other. There is a part of our heart that is steeled for that. But to lose both of her sons too. Not only were they her hope for provision and sustaining life, but they were also her little boys. Even if they were men, then were her little boys. She lost them. She was a widow and a childless woman. Her pain must have been immense. Then there is the fear of not being able to survive that layered on top of that, but it all starts with the pain and mourning.

This is a pain with which I’m not very familiar. My wife has lost both parents and all but one of their siblings. Both of my parents are still living and only one of their siblings has died, and, frankly, I didn’t really know him. I’ve had pain as a parent, but I haven’t lost a child. Even when there is broken relationship or concern, there is still hope that things can work out. That you will do something.

Father, help me to be more sensitive to the situations of people like Ruth. Love them through me. Love my wife through me. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of her losing her father. Help me to not overlook the significance of that and be, through me, exactly what you need me to be.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2021 in Mothers of the Bible, Ruth

 

Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 17)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters—the number of people who were together was about a hundred twenty—and said, 16 “Brothers and sisters, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David foretold about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, “Field of Blood”). 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it; and
Let someone else take his position.
21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:12-26

Dear God, it’s a little vague to me whether or not Mary, the mother of Jesus, was with Mary Magdalene at the tomb after the resurrection, but it’s clear that she is with the apostles now. And her sons re there too. They’re in. They are ready to acknowledge that their brother was unique. They were wrong to have tried to get him out of that house. I wonder if Mary’s sister was there too. So many questions.

This is our last reference to Mary in the New Testament, but I think we can assume she was with them just a little while later for pentecost, and she was part of the church. After all, John was responsible for her now (although I would imagine Jesus’s brothers were more on board with taking care of her now too).

So sometime between the desperate sorrow and loss of the crucifixion and this moment, picking a replacement for Judas, she found out he was alive again. I’m sorry, I didn’t do that justice: HE WAS ALIVE AGAIN!! What an amazing moment that must have been for her. Her life went from being invalidated to validated. Everything good she believed about him was affirmed, and everything she doubted was erased.

I was thinking about this story last night as I went to bed, and I thought of a song I first heard back around 1986. It was by a singer who is deceased now named Luke Garrett. I think it might have been written by the Gaithers. It’s called, “Then Came the Morning.” The second verse and subsequent chorus are about Mary’s experience that weekend:

The angel, the star, the kings from afar, the wedding, the water, the wine. Now it was done, they’d taken her son. Wasted before his time. She knew it was true. he watched him die too. She heard them call him just a man. But deep in her heart she knew from the start somehow her son would live again.

Then came the morning! The night turned into day. The stone was rolled away. Hope rose with the dawn. Then came the morning. Shadows vanished before the sun. Death had lost and life had won, for morning had come.

Now, I’m not necessarily buying the part that she knew deep in her heart he would live again in bodily resurrection any more than I believe Princess Leia knew all along that Luke was her brother. But I completely track with the idea that she was confused and hurt. But then came the morning. That’s what this is all about. The morning came. Your plan came together and she lived to see it. Joseph didn’t live to see it, but she did. What a sweet gift you ended up giving her.

Father, there are things for which I pray every day that I have faith you will grant. Things mainly involving my children. And I may live to see them come about, but maybe I won’t. That’s okay. It’s about your timing and not my ego. It’s about your plan being made perfect and not any agenda I try to lay on top of it. So I give this to you, and if I’m not around to see the “morning,” then so be it.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
 

Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Motherof Jesus (Part 16)

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now finished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, “I’m thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it up to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of his bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the one they pierced. After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’s body. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and took his body away. Nicodemus (who had previously come to him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes. They took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the fragrant spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews. There was a garden in the place where he was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it. They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish day of preparation and since the tomb was nearby.
John 19:25-42

Dear God, there are some things in this story I never noticed before. The first thing is that Mary’s sister was there. Jesus’s aunt. I’ll get back to that in a second.

As I’ve been focused on Mary for the previous 15 prayer journals to you I’ve come to see this whole experience through her eyes as a parent a little more vividly. So the first thing that came to my mind as I read this story yesterday and today is, “Well, this isn’t how this was supposed to work out at all.” What a devastating day! It’s one thing to lose your son, but it’s another to lose him so violently. And even more to have lost the man who was supposed to be the Messiah! She saw this coming. She saw the track he was on from at least the time she and his brothers tried to get him and take him home. This just wasn’t going how she and Joseph foresaw it after they visited with the angels, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and the wise men. I’m sure she and Elizabeth talked a lot about who their boys would be when they grew up, and now they were both dead–killed brutally.

I’ll bet she wished Joseph was there to hold her. I wonder what kinds of conversations she and her sister had had over the previous 34 years. I’m sure the early years were filled with home and wonder. Perhaps big dreams and Israel’s liberation and conquering power. Then, in recent years, concern that this was all unraveling. Perhaps this was too much for her son. Maybe he had lost his mind. Now they stood there together, Mary possibly feeling loved by her sister, but also maybe a little judged. How embarrassing to have this happen to your own son.

And if you’re Jesus, looking down, you see your mom, your aunt, and then John–apparently the only disciple that had the nerve to show up. It doesn’t mention that Jesus’s brothers were there. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus didn’t trust them because he made John responsible for his mother’s care. I’m sure their relationships were pretty strained and frayed by that point. Perhaps they were angry with Mary for supporting Jesus. I don’t know. It’s all conjecture, but the picture is pretty clear. She is standing there with her sister, Mary Magdalene, still another Mary who was married to someone names Clopas, and John. Her son’s life is over. And it sure looks like it was all a waste of time–Bethlehem, the stable, the rumors and innuendo, the flight to Egypt, the children slaughtered in Bethlehem, raising him… Now it was all over and all she had left was to live out the rest of her life.

Of course, we now have the advantage of knowing that that isn’t the end of the story, but let’s just sit with Mary in the seeming failure for another day or two. Sometimes as parents we just don’t know what is going on with our children. I talked with someone today whose son ended up failing out of their first year of college. It just didn’t work. His mother homeschooled him, and so she, at least in part, feels like it’s an indictment against her and how she prepared him for college. He feels like a failure. His father feels it too. But maybe this is a door that you needed to close for him to find the path you have for him. Maybe, like Mary, they simply can’t see what you’re doing. I know I’ve certainly had to embrace that level of faith sometimes with my own children.

Father, help me to be at peace with the fact that sometimes things just don’t go according to my plans because my plans can be vain, shortsighted, and foolish. In fact, help me to let go of my plans and simply look to you in this moment of this day, thank you for what you done that I can see and that I can’t see, and then be at peace in your presence. Let me give my utmost for your highest, regardless of what it costs me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 15)

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s preaching; and look—something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look—something greater than Solomon is here. “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ Returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that person’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.” While he was still speaking with the crowds, his mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to the one who was speaking to him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12:38-50

Dear God, I wish I had done Part 14 and Part 15 in reverse order. I missed this story in chapter 12 before I did the story of Jesus in the synagogue from chapter 13. In reading this now, the order of the stories is that Mary and Jesus’s brothers were dissed here by Jesus, then he tells a bunch of parables by the sea, and then he goes into the synagogue and is rejected (and indicates his family has rejected him as well).

What a strange time this must have been for Mary. She apparently had a lot of children, both boys and girls. I wonder how much time she spent trying to calm the other children down as they dealt with Jesus as their brother. It had to have been hard for them, and it added an underappreciated layer of complexity to Mary’s life as a mother. Maybe it would have been easier for her to figure out how to be a mother to Jesus as an adult if he had been her only, but she had some other children to worry about as well. She was a mother to all of them. And I’m sure sometimes she did it right by standing up to them and telling them they were wrong about Jesus, and sometimes she did it wrong and gave into their perspective of him.

Being a parent, even of adult children, is so complicated. It’s true that our job to parent them is never quite over. As long as we are alive, there is a role for us to play, even if it is only to show them love. Then there are the decisions we have to make regarding whether to help them or not help them in a given situation. I hate to see them suffer, but I also don’t want to get in the way of how you might be working in their life through an obstacle that is in front of them. If I remove that obstacle, have I gotten in your way?

Father, thank you that our forefathers and foremothers we just people too. Thank you that you have given us examples of flawed people who were as lost about parenting as I feel sometimes. I would learn nothing if they were perfect, but none of them are. Now, please help my wife and me to parent our own children. Counsel us through each other and others. Raise up people in our children’s lives whom they can hear and will speak with your voice. Heal their wounds. Heal our wounds. And, in the end, be glorified in all of our lives.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 14)

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left there. He went to his hometown and began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, aren’t they all with us? So where does he get all these things?” And they were offended by him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
Matthew 13:53-58

This must have been such a confusing time for Jesus’s family and everyone who knew him growing up. It certainly seems that he was not only rejected at the synagogue, but also at home because he said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household.” I wonder just how much grief he caught from everyone, including his family. And what were Mary’s thoughts regarding all of this? Had she lost sight of what she had heard from the angel 30 years before? Had the years worn her down a bit? Maybe she built up in her mind what her son’s life would be and she felt like it just wasn’t working out like it was supposed to. Maybe his siblings were complaining to her about him and she was giving into the pressure from them. Either way, it is apparent that Jesus was not feeling affirmed and supported.

This makes me think back to times when 1.) I didn’t have my wife around to help temper my reactions to my children’s behavior and 2.) one of the children would lobby me about how I should feel about the other and I would let their perspective unfairly influence my own. Number 1 is especially important because sometimes we definitely need that other parent to help guide us through frustrating times with our children when my emotions get the better of my judgment. I wonder how these stories might have been different if Joseph had still been around. I wonder how Joseph would have handled 30-year-old Jesus.

Father, thank you for giving me a co-parent. Thank you for giving me a wise woman to help me through those times when my emotions overrode my logic. I know there were times when I still failed my children, but the incidences are much fewer because I had a great co-parent. And I am sorry for when I failed to give my children what you needed them to have from me. I’m sorry for impatience and also for, at times, failing to give them what you needed them to have from me. I don’t have tons and tons of regrets, but I certainly have a few. Please guide all of us as we continue to mature in you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 13)

On the third day a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’s mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding as well. When the wine ran out, Jesus’s mother told him, “They don’t have any wine.” “What has this concern of yours to do with me, woman?” Jesus asked. “My hour has not yet come.” “Do whatever he tells you,” his mother told the servants.
John 2:1-5

Dear God, it is really too bad that we don’t get tone of voice in this story. My wife and I were just talking about this vignette from Jesus’s life and she said that she thinks Jesus was wrong here (she said it, not me 🙂 ). She doesn’t like the tone he uses with Mary. For my part, I see a meddling mother who is trying to save the day for some friends and has a son she knows can do something about it.

However, when tone of voice comes into play, I think we can infer a more playful tone because of how John relates this story. Mary beseeches Jesus to solve their problem. He labels it as her concern and tells her that he can’t be doing anything this public just yet. Then she turns and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. What’s missing is Jesus’s acceptance of the task which tells me that his acceptance must have been in the tone of his voice. Our automatic image is of Jesus always stoic, but I have a feeling that he had contributed to the fact that the wine was running out through his own imbibing, and he was maybe even being playful with Mary. It’s certainly interesting that only John gives us this story. Mary apparently didn’t tell it to Luke when he was doing his research.

Okay, with all of that out of the way, what must it have been like to be a human woman and be the mother of the son of God–the Messiah? How did that work for her? Especially with Joseph apparently gone now. She was the only one left who had experienced the angel visits about Jesus. We’ll assume Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s parents) were gone by then because they were old at the time of Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah in the temple. No, she was it. And I’m sure there were confusing days. There was no one to consult with who could relate to her situation. She too was probably waiting for this young man to be the conquering Messiah. He was 30 now. Wasn’t it about time he got going? He could do these miracles, but wasn’t it time for more? Wasn’t it time for public leadership?

Father, it can be hard to get out of your way when it comes to the path you have for our children. It can feel like our prayers for them are going unanswered because, once again, we measure time in days weeks and months and you measure it in years, decades, and centuries. So I come to you today to simply worship you, pray for my wife and my children (and myself), that we would be on the path you have for us, and that you will use our lives for your glory. And I also, once again, commit to you that I will not look to my children to fulfill my own needs for pride or achievement, but I turn them loose to live their lives and pray that they would be dedicated to you for your glory’s sake and not mine.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 12)

After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and 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 them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.
Luke 2:46-52

Dear God, just this first sentence makes me think about those times when I was so mad at my child when they were little and, after I’d really built up my anger towards them and how I was going to really get onto them when I saw them, I would find them, hear their explanation, and realize that they hadn’t really done anything wrong at all, but, instead, had done their best to do the right thing. I can only imagine how Mary and Joseph were feeling as they searched Jerusalem for three days. I wonder where they went for those three days. What was the first place they looked? The second place? It took three days (coincidence?) to find him in the temple. I wonder why that wasn’t closer to the top of their list.

So they find him and they are probably ready to let him have it. How do I know? Because we think this account is being told to Luke by Mary and she remembers herself saying, “Son, why have you treated us like this?” Forget the idea of being grateful he was alive. She was just angry at him. She might have been telling herself (and Joseph) that if she found him alive she was going to kill him. How could he do this to her (them)?!?

To be clear, I don’t blame Mary for this and I don’t think Jesus did either. He explained himself fairly innocently, but he also learned–as most teenagers need to learn–that his actions impacted the lives of others as well. Jesus still needed some parenting here too. He was still piecing together who he was and how he should proceed.

Father, my children are grown now and finding their own way, but as long as I’m here I think you’ll have some role for me to play in their lives. It might be diminishing. It might be changing. It might be to simply offer at least one source of unconditional love in their lives–one safe place. If that’s what you have for me, so be it. And also help me to be the son you need me to be for my parents and my wife’s father. Help me to adequately express my love for them and know how to receive from them the things you need me to have.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 11)

Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
Luke 2:41-45

Dear God, the last time I went through this story, focusing on Joseph’s perspective, I stopped here–before they found Jesus–so I thought I would stop here for Mary too. He was a good kid so they made a huge assumption. They just assumed he was with their traveling party. Why wouldn’t he be? He always did what he was supposed to do. But the they figured out he wasn’t there. Oh no! What happened?!?

I would bet that it never occurred to her that Jesus would have not been with them voluntarily. That would have apparently been very out of character for him. No, he must have either been taken or hurt and couldn’t get to them. A woman that fled to Egypt only to learn that all of the boys under two years old back in Bethlehem were killed after they left because someone was trying to kill her son had now lost that boy. Where was he?!?

I wonder if she and Joseph blamed each other as they went back to Jerusalem. Maybe they each blamed themselves. Maybe Mary got all of the blame since she was the mom and moms were in charge of children back then. Either way, I’ll bet there was a lot of fear as they went along…and a lot of silence.

I’ve blamed myself for a lot of things with my children through the years. And I’ll confess that I’ve blamed my wife for things too. And she has, in turn, blamed me for some things. How can you not? We all make mistakes and we all deserve some blame. In this case, I think Mary and Joseph both fell asleep at the wheel because they had grown to trust Jesus so much. But he still needed some guidance and parenting. He was trying to figure things out and he needed their help.

Father, help me to be at peace with the mistakes I have made and the mistakes my wife has made. Help me to forgive myself for anything for which I still feel shame. Help me to forgive my wife for any resentments I still have towards her. As I search my thoughts, I can’t think of any, but I’m sure they are there. And help me to stay alert and vigilant as I continue to be a father my adult children. Help me to not miss what you still need them to have from me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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