Everyone told me it would happen. Everyone who I talked to said that with each child, parents just naturally learn and adjust, tightening controls in some areas, relaxing them in others. From the outside, it would probably be easy to assess that reality as a parent caring more about their first child than their third.
After all, I remember when our oldest daughter Addie was born just six years ago we took great pains to install safety bumpers on everything, lay thick blankets over any concrete edges that were in our house, and mount not just audio child monitors in her room, but video ones as well. At night, every time Addie would roll over, Jenny and I would pounce on the monitor to see if she was okay. So many overly paranoid conversations came from that grainy night-vision camera: “Can you see her mouth? Is anything obstructing her airway? I don’t see her chest moving up and down – is she still breathing? Is she?!” And keep in mind that wasn’t just Jenny worrying about those things. I made several covert trips into the den of our sleeping angel, crawling across the floor silently, leaning over her crib like a ninja until I could make out the reassuring sounds of an exhale.
By the time our second daughter Bristol was born, things had changed a little bit. Yes, Bristol still got the watchful eye of Big Brother installed on her wall, but the intensity of our panicked stalking of her every move greatly decreased. On one particular occasion it was about 2 am and Jenny was sound asleep. I had been tossing and turning all night, unable to clear my mind and drift off. About that time I heard a very loud thud against the wall that separates our room from Bristol’s. Jen didn’t wake up, so I reached for the monitor. There was our second born, standing on her bed completely naked, wearing only the snow boots she had just pulled out of the back of her closet. She stood there in an animated state, pointing her finger at the wall having an intense conversation with no one. Well, I say no one, but I guess I can’t be sure. Apparently some children have supernatural abilities to contact spirits from the netherworld and I suppose it’s possible Bristol was enjoying a nice chat with some demonic spirit. And yet, even with that as a possibility, here’s how much my parental concern has changed. I took one look at that bizarre scene unfolding right next to our room, glanced at Jenny laying there blissfully unaware, flipped off the monitor and put it down as I said, “forget it.” I rolled over and went to sleep.
It is remarkable how much you learn, adjust and yes, even grow up when you are put into the role of parent. Jenny and I have had the conversation so many times about how weird it is to think that our kids will look at us as the responsible adults in their lives just like we looked at our parents. It makes me wonder if my Mom and Dad felt as clueless as parents as Jenny and I do at times. Given how many moments they held my physical, emotional and spiritual well being in their hands, that makes me a little uncomfortable to think about if I’m honest. But that’s the model. That’s the design. And…it works.
God knew what He was doing when he gave mankind the gift of family. He knew that it would be through the strength of familial relationships that children would be raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, true from false. He knew the home would be the best place for us to cultivate a spirit of correction and rebuke, all within the bounds of unconditional love. In short, He knew that family would be one of the most profound testimonies to His existence, His providence, His love and His goodness that we would ever know.
I think that’s precisely why Jesus submitted to the family leadership structure. Think about what it says that when Almighty God – through whom all things have been made and who possesses the knowledge of every secret and mystery of the universe – folds Himself down into human form, He submits Himself to the leadership of a Dad and Mom.
I’ve heard countless sermons and songs that reflect on the uncomfortable or intimidating position that undoubtedly created for Joseph and Mary. How do you teach God anything? How do you correct God? How do you discipline, guide, instruct or even scold God? But with as fascinating as those questions may be, I honestly don’t see much value in them. Who cares? I’m not being flippant, I’m just pointing out that the answer really doesn’t matter for you or me because we are not and never will be in the position of Joseph and Mary. We will never raise God as our child.
Maybe our time would be better spent not in questioning what it was like for the parents of Jesus, but rather what it means that Jesus chose to have parents. Why did He? The incarnation could have happened in any way. He could have been birthed from behind a stone, from the depths of the ocean, or descended from a cloud. He could have simply come to us in adult form – walking in from the desert wilderness, staff in hand, prepared to teach and then fulfill His ultimate destiny on the cross. But He chose to be born an infant, be raised from childhood, be trained into adulthood by flawed, earthly parents.
Might I submit that He chose that to teach us something about the value and importance of family...