Daily Devotion Nov. 14, 2023

Daily Focus: Being grateful for a treasure

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51, NIV).

     Fifteen years ago, I captured a sense of what God feels like as a father who has lost his child. Ashville, Ohio holds an annual carnival around the fourth of July. More than 100,000 people descend upon that tiny village. My daughter, Courtney, was four years-old at the time. She was walking with her friend, Natalie, ahead of my wife and me.

     Without warning, the two toddlers darted through the crowd and immediately disappeared. Cathy and I desperately searched for the girls for ten of the longest minutes of my life. My mind raced with thoughts that Courtney and Natalie had been kidnapped. I’ve never experienced such sickening and helpless feelings.

     However, just as I was running past the Ferris wheel, I heard two familiar squeals. I looked up and saw my daughter and her friend’s feet dangling high atop the ride. As Courtney eventually disembarked I experienced an extraordinary dichotomy of feelings. Have you ever wanted to both hug and choke your child at the same time?

I imagine that Mary, Jesus’ mother, held similar feelings to my own. Luke tells of an occasion in which her twelve-year-old son, Jesus, went missing. Following a three-day search, Mary and Joseph found Jesus engaging in a lengthy conversation with several rabbis in the Jewish temple. Mary confronted Jesus with the words every parent has spoken at least once: “Why have you treated us this way?” (I am confident Mary wanted to hug and choke her child.)

     This is how Jesus responded: “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, CEB). Luke doesn’t describe how Mary reacted to Jesus explanation, except to say that Mary treasured the matter in her heart. The word, treasure, in this instance
means to ponder a memory over and over in one’s mind.

     Children treat their parents inconsiderately at times. Even a typically obedient child is apt to forget or make mistakes on occasion. Yet when a daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock or a son ends up in a drug rehabilitation center, none of these errors in judgement negates God’s plan for their lives. No amount of wrongdoing can keep God from pursuing them.

     As a parent, I now chuckle over the memory of my daughter running away from her mother and me. Hindsight has a way of helping us look back at moment of disillusionment or an act of disobedience from a clearer perspective. For Mary, the tension she and her son once experienced between them paled in comparison with the joy of what God would do one day in Jesus’ life.

     I believe that every parent would do well to follow Mary’s lead by ruminating less over our children’s lapses in judgement and pondering more often on the work God is doing in their lives. Even when a child runs away, she can never outrace the grace of God. As Julia Johnston once

              Sin and despair, like the sea-waves cold,
              Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
              Grace that is greater– yes, grace untold–
              Points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.

              Grace, grace, God’s grace,
              Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
              Grace, grace, God’s grace,
              Grace that is greater than all our sin!