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Crises In A Mother's Life

Luke 2: 19; 40-57

As parents, we have learned to appreciate the deeper meaning of the sign on the door of a church nursery:
"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."
At a much higher level, we think we've learned something of the double combination of privilege
and responsibility bound up in the ministry and mystery of parenthood.
Of course, our best efforts will never be quite good enough.
But if it's true that well begun is half done, the first few years of our children's lives have been
well worth the most intense concentration that we've been able to give them.

Proverbs 22: 6: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old,
he will not depart from it
."

This message is not intended to be a digest of easy answers for beleaguered parents,
nor will it provide quick formulas to already broken relationships.
This message is an attempt to set forth a few sound principles to help parents find direction
in this difficult task of rearing children.

Luke describes the onset of one teachable mother's experience like this:
"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2: 19)
What a great start for Jesus' life!
But our Lord, like all other babies became a teenager before Mary realized what was happening.
She was soon faced with the crises of a growing child.

The only glimpse we have into the boyhood of Jesus is one found in Luke 2: 40-51.
At the age of 12, Jesus was obviously a normal, healthy, determined young man.
Jesus and His family visited Jerusalem to celebrate a typical Passover festival.
Wanting to be where the action was, Jesus stayed behind in the temple while His parents
were beginning the long trip back to Nazareth.

After missing Him, they returned to the city to find him three days later.
Understandably annoyed, Mary said to Him, "Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously
."

To say the least, Jesus' answer was a bit cryptic.
His parent's response to it was one of bewilderment.
The answer and its response are excellent examples of what is sometimes called,
"The generation gap."

Teenagers are struggling for a much needed independence.
Maturity and independence for the child should be the goal of every parent.
As the exploring, maturing, process begins, tension between parents and children is inevitable.
Tension inevitably develops as parents and children are operating from differing vantage points.
The struggle for independence and direction is clearly seen in the response Jesus gives to His mother.
"Why is it that you were looking for me?" Said Jesus. (Verse 49)

The surprise is evident.
Surely, reasoned our Lord, of all people, they who knew Him best should have known where He would be.
Ah, but that was the problem!
In the mind of Jesus, the only place for Him was His Father's house.
For Mary and Joseph it was a different story.
They strongly felt that His place was with the group traveling back to Nazareth.
Within the differing viewpoints resides the tension.

In Promises to Peter, Charlie Shedd, says that one of the first jobs of a parent is to be able
to say with real meaning: "Listen to me, children! Your first loyalty is not to me.
You came by me, but you were not from me.
In you there is a native self.
The secret is to discover who God wants you to be and be true to that.
This moment, I set you free to be the best person you can be for yourself
."

Jesus, in His uniqueness, struggled for His independence.
He, too, had to find and commit Himself to the will of His Father.
Tension is inevitable when operating from two distinct vantage points.

Some years ago, Robert Paul Smith wrote a book entitled,
"Where Did You Go?" "Out" "What Did You Do?" "Nothing".

Those two brief questions and their even briefer answers summarize humorously -- on one hand,
but tragically on the other -- parent-child conversations in all too many homes.
Because the interest and needs of parents and teenagers differ radically from each other,
statements exchanged between parents and teenagers often become shorter and more meaningless
as time marches on.

The parents, hopefully being the more mature of the two, should make the first moves toward
clarity and comprehension.
If the parents and the teenagers remained on different wavelengths, communication will become
impossible, and the crisis will become unmanageable.

How will parents handle that unpredictable teen?
The teenager is no longer a child, but not yet an adult.
The teenager demands the privileges of a child and denies the responsibilities of the adult.
Your teenagers will try your patience, and then tease you into forgiving them.

They will break your heart and expect your love.
If you always react in anger, your teenager will soon withdraw into a shell and you may
lose your teenager.
But if you respond with affectionate concern, you have a better-than-even chance of winning
your teenager back.
Commend them for the good things they do, and try to overlook the things that annoy you,
if they are otherwise harmless.

Paul's words to fathers in Ephesians 6: 4 apply to mothers also: "Do not provoke
your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord
."
This should be telling us that young people need to be affirmed.
Regarding criticism, one father said, "When I quit being a bloodhound for all the family's faults,
they actually began doing better
."
Every child needs a lot of good, parental affirmation.

Katherine Anne Porter powerfully states this need of affirmation in her book, Ship of Fools.
One of the characters, a wealthy, self-sufficient divorcee, expresses herself in a bitter,
but touching monologue: "Love me. Love me in spite of all!
Whether or not I love you, whether I am fit to love, whether you are able to love,
even if there is no such thing as love, love me
."

Are we, as parents, providing the quality of affirming love that will enable our young people
to grow to healthy maturity?
Children will inevitably become what they are told they are.
They will inevitably project upon others the way they feel about themselves.

Capt. Kangaroo closed most of his shows with a plea to parents to "spend some time
with your child today
."
Failure to spend time with children is tantamount to saying, "You are not worth my time."

Fred Rogers of "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," used every opportunity to tell
his little friends that they are "special," and he likes them just the way they are.

We must work toward solutions rather than establishing blame.
Often, when a child does something wrong, parents tend to attack the person rather than the problem.
Usually, they accuse by asking, "Why did you do that?"
That's the wrong question!
Nine out of 10 times the young person will respond, ";I don't know."
He is usually honest at that point.
He probably doesn't know why.

So the parent should make a clear statement about what is wrong, and then ask,
"What are we going to do about resolving the matter?"
This approach will usually produce brokenness in spirit and also produce a learning
experience for both the child and the parent.

Take a page from the life of Mary.
After Jesus, always obedient to His parents, accompanied them back to Nazareth,
"His mother kept all these things in her heart." (Luke 2: 51)
Happily for Jesus, she was as teachable in this instance as she had been twelve years earlier.
As "Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men, "
Mary tried her best to learn with Him.

Even when she didn't fully understand Him, she maintained her confidence in Him,
knowing that His sense of divine vocation would be His guide.
No doubt, this godly mother fiercely struggled with the ultimate destiny of her son that would
take Him far away from her grasp.

How do you fill the void left behind, when that completely, self-sufficient teenager leaves
the nest -- forever?
If you wish, you can tag along after him, dogging his steps and hampering his progress.
In that case he'll shudder every time he sees you coming and suffer inward agony until you leave.

On the other hand, you can send him on his way with your prayers and God's promises,
telling him that whenever he needs you, you'll come at a moment's notice.
In that case he'll be your friend as well as your son, and you'll be like the mother
the wise man described: "Her children rise up and call her blessed." (Proverbs 31: 28)

As an infant, as an adolescent, and as an adult Jesus was blessed with a mother who cared.
Mary transformed all her crises into opportunities for growth for herself and for her family.
In the midst of birth pangs and growing pains, reluctant goodbyes and final farewells,
Mary helped to change potential alienation into loving reconciliation.
By her Son's cradle on the day He was born, and beneath His cross on the day He died,
she demonstrated a maternal loyalty seldom equaled before or since.
In doing so, she left a record of devotion that, in its own small way, shows today's
Christian mother how much it can cost to close the generation gap.

The story is told of a young mother, who finally got her three children to bed and turned wearily
to the den to sit down and read for a few moments.
As she entered the room, her eyes fell on a sight that almost brought her to tears.
On the floor an encyclopedia was opened with a page ripped out and torn up into little pieces.
As she took in the scene, it seemed to symbolize the frustration she experienced as a people-maker.
Here was the story of her life -- picking up after little children and putting things back together.

With a weary sigh she got some Scotch tape and began to piece back the parts of the torn page.
It turned out to be a picture of a child's face, and when, she finally got it back together,
she happened to turn it over.
On the other side was a one-page map of the world.
Suddenly, it struck her that in putting together the likeness of a child; she had also been
giving shape to a world.

Had any of that child's features been misplaced, the whole outline of the world would have been distorted.
It was for her a symbol of the significance of the task that at times seemed so far removed from
the great issues of the day.

The kinds of human beings that go out of our homes are going to shape or misshape society as a whole.
May we, with God's help take care to include all the essential people-making components.
With the help of God -- we can!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com