|The Graduate by Norman Rockwell|
It’s nerve-wracking to watch a son reach adulthood these days. (The same is true for girls, but I'll save that for a later post.) The Associated Press recently reported that 53 percent of America’s recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Many of these young people carry huge debts, too. This is a tragic way to begin life! We want so much more for our sons, but the world is broken. Our sons may be broken, too. (Did you ever meet an adult with no issues at all?!) A million problems can potentially thwart their success and fulfillment.
Today, we focus on the economy and college expenses and joblessness. We can’t believe circumstances could be so misaligned for our young men. But in reality, it has always been scary to launch boys. Imagine launching a boy during World War II! Here are two pictures I took at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
As the mother of a boy who loves birds, I still cry whenever I look at these.
Sometimes, I also cry for worry over my sons’ futures. God found me in this faithless posture recently, and began whispering to me, in that still, small voice, about a story we’ve all heard in Sunday school.
When Jesus was 12, he gave his parents the slip. For three days. In a busy, dangerous city.
Luke 2:43 informs us that when the annual party was over and everyone was trekking home, Jesus simply “stayed behind in Jerusalem.” I get the impression he’d been planning this. I think he did it with the same blossoming independence that prompted my son to quietly take the passenger’s seat for the first time, on his 12th birthday. No asking, no announcement – just a self-determined step away, the instant his age qualified him.
Isn’t that a boy’s right?
Of course, his parents were frantic. When they found him in the temple, stunning the priests with his insightful questions and brilliant theology, Mary exploded.
“SON, WHY HAVE YOU TREATED US SO?!?! BEHOLD (insert modern equivalent), YOUR FATHER AND I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR YOU IN GREAT DISTRESS!!!”
I imagine her shrill voice echoing through the quiet, snobby temple, kind of like my voice once, in CVS.
Jesus’ response is multilayered. “Why were you looking for me?” he asks, innocently but profoundly. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Duh, Mom!
Jesus was choosing the form of his manhood: dependence on God. His answer to Mary was not defiant; he was genuinely surprised that she and Joseph hadn’t figured out what was so blatantly obvious to him: As a soon-to-be man, he belonged with God. He was raring to go with his career. (Don’t you love 12 year old boys!)
His message to Mary spoke to me. We moms worry. We know we’re responsible for our children, and we wonder if we’ve done enough and done it right. We long to see them flourish, and it’s almost impossible to pry our anxious, meddling hands off their lives as they reach adulthood. But let go we must.
Jesus was telling Mary, “Mom, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I have a relationship with God. I’m stepping into his plan, and Mom, this is between God and me. Relax – God and I have got this.”
So it is with our sons. By definition, reaching adulthood is between them and God; it’s a transfer from dependence on parents to direct dependence on him. Where our involvement fades away, God takes over. And we can trust him.
We can also trust our sons. It’s insulting if we don’t. Our doubts imply that God can’t handle our sons, and our sons can’t handle life.
Very real threats have always awaited our children, and it is heartbreaking. Mary endured the fulfillment of Simeon’s words from Jesus’ infancy: “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:35) Watching her son crucified was surely the severest piercing imaginable.
Yet Jesus’ life gives every mom great hope. His worst suffering was achieving his greatest victory! Just a few days after his crucifixion, Mary’s perspective was transformed to joyful awe. When Jesus’ circumstances looked hopeless to her, God was working out his plan.
It’s no different with our sons. God created them and placed them into this era of history for a purpose. He knows what he’s doing. He is greater than the brokenness in and around them. He can use every trial to deepen their faith. If they wander away from him, he will faithfully pursue them. Every disappointment, defeat, obstacle, and hostility can bring them to maturity, until they know they have nothing to fear, and they step into God’s victory.
Relax, Mom. God and your son have got this.