I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to experience God the way he’s presented in scripture: holy, loving, present. Probably because I have trouble experiencing myself the way scripture portrays me: human, with all the dignity and shame humanity entails.
The problem is not scripture – but my failure to connect with God through scripture. Having been raised in the church, all too often, my eyes pass over familiar passages without really engaging them. So, I started writing scripture down; it makes me go through it more slowly. Recently I copied out a familiar story, and in the space between the letters, I could picture this event:
Now [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:41-46
Have you ever done that? Forgotten a child?
One time my husband and I were planning to make a 14-hour drive with our kids. We taught the pre-schoolers during the mid-week Women’s Bible Study and planned to leave right from church when we were done. I will admit that the civilized chaos of alternating groups of children through our program followed by passing them back to their mamas with craft projects in hand left us a bit frazzled.
Finally loaded and ready to go, my husband looked over his shoulder to back out of our parking space. That’s when we noticed the empty infant seat. My heart stopped and my stomach knotted up instantly. It only took about three minutes to race back into the church and retrieve our baby, but the feeling of horror the moment I noticed the baby missing has never escaped my memory.
Mary and Joseph probably had to wait until the next morning to return to Jerusalem to find their missing child. Can you imagine the angst of that long night?
Can you imagine looking for three days in a city that no longer felt warm and welcoming? They searched streets, alleys, and marketplaces for their missing child, not knowing where he was. What went through their heads as they ached with guilt over leaving him?
I feel a certain camaraderie and connection with Mary and Joseph. As I wrote out their story by hand, I could feel their humanity – and I began to relax in my own.
This is why Jesus came. Because I mess up. Because I forget.
Sometimes I realize I have been missing Jesus. I just plod along the path and at some point I notice I’ve forgotten him. The truth is, he came so that I could find him. His word, his Spirit, and prayer… these are all means to finding him. Again and again. And he’s always right where I expect him to be: sitting in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49; John 14:2-3) interceding for me (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34),
Other times, I realize I don’t trust that God really remembers me. I feel forgotten. Jesus came for this, too. He came because he wanted me to know a Father who would never forget me. (Psalm 121: 1-8)
What about you? Do you desperately look for Jesus when you notice you’ve forgotten him? Are you able to rest in the knowledge that God has not forgotten you – however bleak your circumstances may be?
Sometimes He’s right there, but I put Him in the back seat of the car or in a box. Wishing that I could remember where I left him. I don’t know me, but He does!! He finds me and guides me to the next step.