December 27, 2006

Have You Seen This Child?

2006 1536 page27 capou can scarcely pick up even a local paper without reading about some parent who has abandoned a child. This is one such story. Some would say she was not a good mother. You be the judge.
It happened on the way back from a holiday visit with extended family, nieces and nephews, second aunts and third cousins all reconnecting joyfully, and then it was time to go home. To be on the safe side in all the post-holiday traffic, and because they hated to part any sooner than they had to, they traveled caravan style with family and friends. The report states this as the reason that the mother didn’t notice for an entire day that her young boy was not with them. Once they’d stopped for the night, no one could remember seeing him since early that morning. In terror she finally acknowledged that they’d left without him, that he was back there, all alone.
2006 1536 page27It had taken a whole day to discover he was missing, so as they retraced their steps it took another whole day just to get back. With the holiday passed, and the family disbanded, she and her husband didn’t even know where to begin. Frantic, they searched, praying that they would find him unmolested, unrobbed, unhurt. Finally on the third day, they found him, and, praise God, he was all right. End of story.
Or maybe not.
What do you think of this mother? Hold your judgment for just a moment while I tell you she was Mary, the mother of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 2.
Before you dare think one unkind thing about this woman’s losing sight of Jesus for three whole days, let me ask, haven’t you ever lost sight of Jesus? This story of loss offers rich lessons, both positive and negative:
  • She realized she was still family; they’d just become separated. Sometimes when we (or others) wander, we forget that.
  • She retraced her steps. Sometimes we can look to a particular crossroad, a specific choice that began our separation from the Lord. Acknowledging that place or event can be the beginning of understanding, and of a fresh start.
  • Strangely enough, once she got back to Jerusalem, she looked for Him everywhere but in church. Funny how when our spiritual lives begin to feel empty, we try to fill up with everything but what’s missing. We wander wildly before our search brings us back to church.
  • Everyone on the road knew she’d lost her child; that had to have been embarrassing. But not embarrassing enough to keep her from looking for Him, and making that her most important priority. When you live in fellowship with others, they are witness to both your highs and lows. Let go of your ego and get on with it—nothing is worth one more day away from Him!
  • She blamed Him! I’ve heard stories of parents who inadvertently left a child at a gas station. But whatever the contributing factors, even the angriest parent who has had to backtrack to that little gas station in that no-name town knows deep in their heart that it’s they who should have checked. Jesus was right where she’d left Him. He is also right where you left Him, too. Stop blaming God for whatever has happened. He’s not the one who moved.
Luke doesn’t tell us this, but I suspect that Mary and Joseph didn’t let Jesus out of their sight for quite a while. There’s a good lesson for all of us in that as well. Don’t lose sight of Jesus. Be where He is, do what He does, go where He goes. Check often, so you can make slight course corrections instead of backtracking days and years and miles.

Time is short, and we all must be about our Father’s business.

Valerie N. Phillips is associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.