While Jesus’ example for parents and children during his boyhood has a lot to glean from, it is His example as a teenager that struck me the most. The story is found in Luke 2:41-47. When Jesus was 12 years old His parents and His family traveled into Jerusalem for the annual Passover Festival. After the days for the festival were complete they began their journey back home. They left with their caravan assuming their Son was amongst them. However, after three days of travel Joseph and Mary discovered their son Jesus was not with them. When they arrived back in Jerusalem, they searched for Jesus and found Him in the temple listening, asking questions, and talking with the teachers. Here is the dialogue that went down taken from Luke 2:48-50:
Narrator: When His parents saw Him, they were astonished
Mary: “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.”
Jesus: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
Narrator: But they did not understand what He said to them.
Can you picture yourself in this situation? Here I am for the past twelve years pouring my life into my children and trying to raise them to be followers of Christ and when they actually want to throw change into the salvation army pot, gather all the baskets in the Kroger parking lot on a cold day so the elderly man doesn’t have to be out in the cold, unselfishly taking their money and buying 13 small animals for a family in a third world country, my initial reaction sometimes is astonishment! Oh how I can relate to Mary. Then when they tell me their reason behind what they want to do (or did), I still do not understand most of the time.
After re-reading this passage, I am reminded of my responsibility as a parent. First, prior to the children reaching their teenage years, it is our responsibility as parents to teach and model for them what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. (See: The Childhood of Jesus- What Parents and Children Can Learn, Part 1) While this does not stop after they become teenagers, childhood is an extremely formidable time of the child’s life where a parent’s influence is at its peak. So as our children approach the teen age years, we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable moments where they want to exercise and demonstrate the things we as parents have taught them. Jesus was doing what His parents had raised Him to do. He was seeking the Father and doing His will. When we see our children doing the things God has told them to do we should be thankful, blessed and full of God’s graciousness that He would allow us the opportunity to actually be a part of the work He is doing in our children’s lives. However, it is a bitter sweet moment. Mary and Joseph were extremely worried. If you have ever lost a child you know exactly what she is feeling. It is a feeling you never forget and never want to relive (that is another story). So you can imagine her response is what you would expect…Why have you done this? After the emotions of the moment retreated we do find that Mary was able to calm down and from that moment on “treasured all the things her Son did in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
Allowing our teenagers to exercise the beliefs we have tried to instill in them, our second response should be to treasure their actions in our hearts. Laying aside our human nature to protect and still want to control their every move, we begin the process of positioning ourselves into more of a mentor role. While our authority never fully gets brushed to the side during these years, our relationship between parent/child does begin to change. Instead of fighting against it and causing more rebellion from the child, the biblical example is to embrace the change that is coming and to allow God more room to work in the child’s life as well as our own.
As Jesus begins to enter His teenage years, current teenagers can learn a huge lesson from His example as well. Jesus had been diligent to pay attention to all of the teaching He had received as a boy. It was now time for Him to begin His journey in carrying out His heavenly Father’s will. To do that Jesus needed to be where He would be able to do this and Jesus’ encounter with His parents is so typical of a teenager’s response. “Where else did you think I would be?” However, His next response is not so typical. Instead of arguing and trying to prove to His parents He was right, this is what he does: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51). Wow!! Teenagers, did you see that? Jesus went back home with His parents and was obedient to them!
While Jesus, being the Son of God could have chosen to do whatever He wanted to at that moment, He chose to give a model to our teenagers today. He showed teenagers they are not quite ready to be “out from under the wing” of their parents. Yes, our teenagers need to be allowed to exercise their beliefs and carry out the work God wants them to do, but it still needs to be supervised. Teenagers should heed Jesus’ example and still be obedient to their parents despite what they may feel God wants them to do at the current moment.
During the rest of Jesus’ teenage years He “increased more in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:52). I know it is hard to wait and be obedient to parents. But the reward and benefits far outweigh the immediate desires. There is still room for teenagers to grow in wisdom and stature before heading off to college or wherever the Lord leads them after their time at home is complete. There is still time for the teenager to gain blessing and admiration before God and the people they are around.
My Hearts Prayer: Lord, thank you for a different insight into the Christmas story this year as I continued to read past the manger scene. I pray that this early encouragement on how to relate to the future teenagers in my house will be honoring to you and a reminder to me of the short, but meaningful and important time that you have given to Scott and me with the children. Lord, take our humble parenting techniques and shape and use them to guide, protect, and minister to each of our children. Help us to treasure it all in our hearts so that one day we can reflect back on them when each of the children are carrying out the desires you have for them. In Jesus Name, Amen.