A few months ago, I picked up a book called Wrestling With Wonder by Marlo Schalesky. It was the title itself that caught my eye as I felt that those very words easily describe what I so often do- wrestle with wonder. Immediately, I rushed to the titles of the chapters where other words stood out from the page; words such as disappointed, blessed and transformation. These titles whetted enough of an appetite that I quickly bought the book and over the past few months, have slowly been remunating over this very subject of wrestling with wonder.
I wish that I could say that I loved to wonder and ponder various subjects all of the time, especially the thoughts that involve the future. Sometimes it is really great and it is exciting not to be able to predict what’s around the corner. However, it can often feel more like drowning in a sea of questions and just wanting to know some of those answers. I desire so much to have that open hand that says ‘Yes, Lord, send me’ or ‘ I’ll do whatever you want!’. But if I am honest, the joy and excitement in the adventure can be robbed from me as the unknown is just a little bit scary at times! So I wrestle with it. With a tension between wanting to exude excitement and the reality of shedding tears because I’m weary of wondering. I just want to know.
In this book, the author brings us through the journey of Mary. A young woman who was called blessed and was given the responsibility and privilege of rearing the very Son of God in His great redemptive plan for mankind. Her obedience and her heart paved the way for her to experience such a close encounter with Jesus and yet if we actually take a moment to think back on her life, it certainly wasn’t always an easy one. The chapters break down her journey, from the manger to the cross. From the beginning to the end, her story involves trust, confusion, fellowship, the witnessing of miracles, the example of love and being blessed, her nightmare unfolding, her disappointment arising and her hope being fulfilled. There is one segment of her life that I cannot stop thinking about and I had never really taken the time to consider. It is this that I’d like to share today and if you are intrigued by the other topics that I’ve mentioned, I do encourage you to pick up the book!
In Luke chapter 2, we get a glimpse into the life of Jesus as a twelve year old. I actually cannot imagine what it would be like to be the mother of a child who was perfect and did not sin. I’m sure it was very convicting at times! Here, we are told that Jesus’ earthly family were in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as they were every year. When the feast was over, they were returning home when they realised that Jesus wasn’t with them. I’m presuming that they must have been travelling with a large group of people for this delayed realisation that your child isn’t with you. So as parents might do when not knowing the whereabouts of their twelve year old, they searched for him. They actually searched for three days and had to retrace their steps back to Jerusalem. I can only guess that they must have been frantic and worried. I wonder what their prayers would have been like. ‘Hey, I know you gave me the responsibility of helping raise your Son, God, but I seem to have lost him…… Sorry?’ I don’t know what would have been racing through their mind but I don’t think it would have been something that was blasé or with a carefree demeanour. I’m sure heartfelt tears were shed and cries poured out as to the wonder of where the Son of God could have been!
Lo, and behold, thankfully, Jesus is eventually found in the temple. In fact, scripture tells us he was sitting among the teachers- listening to them and asking questions. This alone, would tell anyone that this boy is not your typical twelve year old. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall and to hear the very words spoken by both divinity and humanity to a group of teachers! I’m sure they were amazed, intrigued and challenged by this young boy. But let us look at Mary’s response and this is the very thing that I had never really thought about before.
And his mother said to him. ‘Why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress. Luke 2.48
Why have you treated us so? I probably would have said and done the exact same thing. Why? How could you do this to me? Because this is the thing. Jesus, in His great knowledge, wisdom and sinless being, would have known that his mother would have been distressed at his absence. As he stayed behind in Jerusalem and allowed his family to continue their journey, he would have known that his mother (and father) would become deeply distressed. Most of your average twelve years olds might consider that their parents will be wondering with worry where they are or it might even cross their minds that when they are found, their parents are going to kill them for causing them such angst. But this young boy is different. Not only He is intelligent enough to be found in philosophical conversations with religious teachers but He is sinless. Which means…… that He wasn’t doing anything wrong in allowing his parents to go through a diffulcult, distressful and tear filled part of their journey! Mary’s first response and concern was ‘how could you do this to us?’. Have you ever been there? ‘God, why are you allowing this to happen, its really distressing for me to go through this!’. It feels like we are even wronged! We are confused that our loving Father, who knows what’s ahead, would even lead us into this. And we cry out WHY?? I want to know! But that is the wrong thing that we are wanting to know. We are seeking to know the why’s, when we should be seeking to know the Who.
Jesus responded to that question with Did you not know that I would be in my Father’s house? He was asking them ‘do you not know WHO I am?’. ‘Had it not occurred to you where I would be? With my Father.’ And that is the very truth that we can hold onto in our great distress. He is the Son of God, interceding on our behalf to the Father. When trials comes and we are wrestling with all the wonder and the why’s, we don’t have to wrestle with who He is. He is perfect and He is perfect in all of His ways to us. He was perfect in His ways to his earthly family, even when they might have felt abandoned or alone.
Oh how easy it is to write these words and how hard it can be to really live them out. This one thought has continued to seep its way into those times of wrestling with wonder. I am still left with that tension of wanting to feel excited and enthuastic but struggling with doubt and distress. However, in it all and even amongst those feelings, I find who He is. He is with me and His ways are not wrong, they are perfect. I may not have grasped or understand all the why’s. I may still be hit with waves of questions but I have the very hand of God present to be my hope and anchor. Like Mary, who was considered blessed, I may sometimes be confused as to His whereabouts. However, I follow a God who is continously at work in bringing me to a place that knows who He is.