Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I'm currently reading Richard Foster's book Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. And of course with the baby coming soon, pretty much everything in my life says something about children, family, parenting, those sorts of things (some books say it's hormonal and there's nothing I can do about it!).

Anyway, so in the introduction of the book, he's talking about the Incarnational Tradition - the tradition that says that every part of your life is sacred; you can't separate your religious life from your secular life. Here, he's talking about Jesus' childhood and the fact that we are told very little about it.

We are given very little information about those growing-up years, but what we are given is highly suggestive. Not suggestive in the fanciful "sandbox miracles" kind of way that some have used to fill in those hidden years. No, suggestive in a much more ordinary way. But precisely because it is ordinary, it is all the more helpful to us....Most instructive of all is the simple comment of Luke after Joseph and Mary had found Jesus in the temple: "Then [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them" (Luke 2:51).

A whole world is carried in that unadorned observation that Jesus was "obedient to them." Jesus grew up under the tutelage of his parents, Joseph and Mary. And while Joseph is not heard from again, we can be confident that Jesus learned the carpentry trade from him and worked in that trade until he began his public rabbinic ministry at roughly the age of thirty.

We would do well to ponder those years Jesus spent as a carpenter working in what we today would call a blue-collar job. Where do you imagine Jesus learned to walk in perfect harmony with his heavenly Father? Where do you suppose he learned to "give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you" (Matt. 5:42)? Where do you imagine he came to experience such a life of single-minded devotion to God that he knew that "no one can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24)? Where, I ask you, did he learn such a deep, intimate life of prayer that he could confidently teach us, "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matt. 7:7)? Where do you think he learned to live out the words, "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you" (Matt. 7:12)? Where did he learn all these things and so much more? I will tell you where. He learned them in his carpentry work and at home with his parents and his brothers and sisters. Jesus did not all of a sudden one day start spouting nice sayings about God. No, when he began his public ministry, he was speaking out of a life that had been tested and tried. He had proven the teachings to be true over and over again as he sawed wood and assemble chairs and built cabinets.

And while I know that Foster is not saying that Joseph and Mary taught Jesus all he knew about God (he was divine, too, after all) I thought it was such an interesting take on how important parenting is. If they were that important in the life of the Son of God, how much more important are today's parents in the lives of our children?

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