Rumbling tremors beneath the foundation of our home started in our son’s preteen years, but a tectonic shift changed the course of our parenting when he turned 18-years old, when he started floating away, an island all his own.
This continental drift, an initiation into manhood, for daughters, womanhood, means we no longer reign over our children’s country. So even if they’re still living at home as many young adults do these days, they’re still drifting far from shore. It’s a confusing time for all of us. They’re daunted by the anchor-less world before them. We’re perplexed by the sudden shift — the pushing away, and inconsistent returning when we’re needed. They stop by for home cooked meals, some petty cash, to crash. There’s no how-to manual for this transition of I need you and I don’t. They expect us grounded firmly rooted like palm trees in the earth, majestic towers of strength, yet also breezy and flexible so they flit in and out of our lives. When they drift far away, they still want the messages sent in a bottle, guiding wisdom from ashore, but they don’t want our opinions. We learn to bite our tongues.
They want to know our heart is in the North Star shining bright in dark ember nights on their journey, that God lives beyond the canopy of the vastness before them, that they will not perish in its unfathomability. They do not know these desires tucked away, nor do they speak these truths. We hold for them this sacred knowing.
As my son ventures into the wilderness this week alone for a soul-searching vision quest, I shop for and prepare staple meals and healthy snacks. I hear myself say, I should let him do this himself, but I just can’t help it, it’s the remnants of motherhood that drive me that I realize will always remain. When I’m tempted to slip in an inspirational note, a poem or words of wisdom as I did each day packing his pre-school lunches, I pull in the reigns. I heard a podcast the other day by a poet who said his parents, writers and artists, slipped silly rhymes into his school lunches. I smile wondering if my little lunchbox notes mattered, if he’ll remember, if somehow they’re imprinted on his creative heart as he opens containers of healthy snacks in the wilderness this week, the North Star shining bright in the silent night.
I think again of Mary, mother of Jesus fretting when he disappeared as a 12-year old boy into the temple as they made their journey back home from the Festival of Passover. She thought he was close behind traveling along with the crowd. It took them three days to find him intent listening to the teachers, asking wise questions beyond his years. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding of the teachings.
When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching 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.
Mary reminds me mothers worry. Fathers worry. Even Jesus’ words, do not worry about your life sometimes don’t penetrate, or quell, the worry we have regarding our children.
The rumbling beneath their parenting foundation started in earnest for Mary and Joseph in Jesus’ preteen years. We don’t know much about the years between preteen years and his initiation into manhood, but surely the Jewish rites of passage may have helped launch him into manhood, helping Mary and Joseph let go in a ritual setting. But who can imagine how they coped with the perilous journey before him in his ministry that started in his thirties, or the crushing of Mary’s heart when she heard these words:
Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But Jesus replied, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to 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.”
Who can imagine the final plate tectonic shift that happened later with his death on the cross —
the anguish of her mother’s heart as the nails went through his hands and feet, when he cried out, thirst parching his throat?
Who can imagine how Mary felt as she stood near the cross of Jesus standing with her sister, as well as Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene, and ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ — John –nearby:
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” So from that hour, this disciple took her into his home..”
How would I feel if my son told me I was longer his mother? If he told me his beloved friend was instead her new son? What mother could stand such harsh, brutal words? My son telling me the other day he doesn’t want us to live in the same city as him when he finally moves out soon, seems nothing compared. Yet, I still took private time to reflect on his words that felt like a punch in the gut. After deciphering his cryptic teenage language, I realized what he meant was something entirely different then the way it sounded. He was trying to say I don’t want you nearby so that I’m tempted to rely on you. I have to prove I can to do this myself. I have to go at this alone.
Although Jesus’ seemingly heartless words shock, in fact, I wonder now if they were words of love. I wonder if by slicing through the umbilical cord, he prepared Mary for the reality of what was ahead. I wonder by giving her a new son — St. John — in reality He helped fill the empty space in her heart, giving them both new life of mutual caring as He prepared for his departure.
And yet, what swords penetrated Mary’s heart as Jesus, crying out his last words spoke, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!
Having said this, Jesus breathed his last breath.
It was over. And yet, it was also just the beginning.
In committing His spirit to God, ultimately Jesus was telling us again, for the thousandth time, we are all God’s children first and last, and upon His resurrection we find in God there’s flourishing and abundant life and rebirth. And we remember His words, I will never leave or forsake you.