Saturday, January 3, 2009

Exasperating Children

"Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." Luke 2:48

Sometimes I have felt like I am the only parent who has gotten completely exasperated with my children. When they were young, no matter how gentle I was with them, how well I encouraged them to share, and how hard I tried to treat them with equality while honoring each unique being, at the end of any given day I was exasperated and full of anxiety for them and their future. They were often at each others throats, fighting sometimes for the sheer joy of it. I tried to keep them safe, warm, and healthy and they sometimes seemed hellbent on getting banged up, sick and in trouble. We have been spared a majority of the tragedies that befall parents, but the daily desire to keep them healthy and safe always seem outdone by their remarkable ability to get twisted up, lost, brokenhearted and short on time for an overdue project. All families, no matter how well put together or undone, can provide us with insight into our relationship with God. As exasperated and confused as we might become, God promises to be in relationship with us through Jesus Christ.

I gain comfort from Mary, who had at least one or two exasperating moments with the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Incarnate Word of God. This incident at the temple, an important moment in her son's life and the life of the whole family, the moment when he becomes a man in the eyes of the synagogue, give us a glimpse into the very humanity of the Son of God. Impertinent and full of himself, Jesus responds without compassion to his frazzled parents. Anyone who has lived with a young teen can tell you that this is one of the most common responses a young teen gives to a parent - horror and astonishment at their concern and care. The mature Jesus, who looked with love on the whole world from the cross, still had to live with blemishes and attitude, hormones and repulsion of parents. He still had to do his part to make his parents weary and exasperated.

As the holidays come to a close, I encounter a lot of frazzled and exhausted people. In our honest desire to celebrate God's love in our lives, we can bring ourselves to the edge of physical, emotional and sometimes financial ruin. We go to this exasperated place out of love. The good news for all of us today, is that Jesus joins us in this place and offers us his arms of love and his look of loving compassion solidified on the cross. Love is no longer distant and hidden, but present and revealed. Our families may never live up to our expectations, whether simple or ridiculous, but God love is there in our need. Right here, right now, when we are all on the edge. May we, like Mary, treasure these exasperating moments of love and growth revealed, as sign and symbol of God's real and living presence in our lives. We may not understand today, but we can still treasure the love we have.

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