My Good Friday plans got hijacked by 11:00 a.m. I’d forgotten the big “marshmallow drop” (don’t ask), and suddenly we were rushing around the house finding shoes and coats and plastic bags so we could join several hundreds of our fellow Evanstonians at the park.
While there, we ran into friends, who invited us to walk over to the Steak ’n Shake. Also unscheduled. Now we were right by the Aldi, and I needed a few things for dinner, but my eldest was supposed to go to Will’s house.
It was a few blocks away, but it would take at least twenty minutes to walk there and back with his slowpoke younger brother. So I sent him on alone while taking the youngest to the store.
Twenty-seven minutes later, I was on the phone with Will’s mother because my son had not shown up, yet. She and Will and another friend went out looking, and she texted the moms in her neighborhood to look out their doors, too.
Meanwhile, I had two bags of groceries, a pokey five-year-old, and no car. And here’s the messed up thing: I was mad at my son. At my eight-year-old son!
Of course I wasn’t really angry with him. I was mad at myself. At the universe. I was stalling myself from worrying about him. I was stressing about those other mothers that got involved. I was imagining what I’d tell my wife.
As I rushed home, half-dragging the younger one, I discovered a dozen things I could have done differently to avoid this scenario—show him a map, make him memorize the address, explain what to do if he got lost.
When Will’s mother hadn’t found him after five minutes, and there were no signs of emergency vehicles, I knew he must have gone home. It’s what I would have done, and he’s a lot like me.
Sure enough, when I turned the corner onto our block, I saw my boy sitting in our front yard. He cried when he saw me, but he was safe.
I gave him a hug. He started explaining how the road ended, how he didn’t know what to do. He was a little mad at me, but he was more worried he’d screwed up.
Two licensed psychologists have confirmed that I did pretty good, here. I held him, comforted him, told him everything was okay. I told him he did the right thing, even. I told him we were worried about him, but I was glad he was fine. I managed to act like there wasn’t a host of parents freaking out about this.
Then I let him tell me what happened. The road jogs to the left a couple blocks before his friend’s house. He saw the alley and knew something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what to do, so he retreated home. Just like he should have.
When I drove him to Will’s, I took the road he had tried to walk, and we saw where it ended at the alley, saw how the street sign to the left was behind the tree leaves, found the actual route I should have told him to take.
It was kind of a big deal.
What I guess I’m driving at is: how the hell did Joseph and Mary not worry about where Jesus was for, like, a whole day? I didn’t know where my son was for half an hour and nearly lost it—and I can send messages through space by touching a piece of glass.
Many commentaries have some line about “Mary and Joseph needed to understand such-and-such about Jesus.”
Needed to understand? Like the point of the story is that these parents overreacted?
These are the parents whose child was foretold to them by angels, who had unexpected visitors guided by divine means to seek their child out, who fled the country to protect this child from a crazed politician.
I take Luke’s point to be that Jesus understood his mission well before anyone else—even the parents who’d had so many supernatural communications.
And with each passing year as a parent, it’s all the more evidence of the topsy-turvy logic of Jesus. Infinite God as hunted babe. Obedient Son as independent son. The Triune God dividing his own family.
Outside the theological reasons Jesus didn’t sin, there’s a relational reason, too. It’s not a matter, really, of which party, if any, did something wrong. As a parent, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your child’s safety. For all the rest, you take the responsibility on yourself.
This is a spiritual mystery of parenthood. It teaches you to put yourself in the other’s place, to want to take another’s pain, to want to suffer the consequences for another’s choices, for no other reason than that you love him.
It was an apt if unexpected lesson for a Good Friday.
When Mary chides Jesus, it’s probably not her anger speaking but her relief. It’s the kind of thing you say once you know your child is safe but you haven’t quite worked through your own emotions about it.
It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re still struggling to live like you’re not the center of the cosmos. When you’re still learning that you cannot control all the moving pieces. That your plans will get hijacked.
You’re not God, after all.
As servants of God, we are tasked to create, love, hurt, and rejoice. And then do it again.
At 1:30 p.m. on Good Friday I was back home with the youngest boy, unclenching my shoulders for the first time in an hour now that everyone was safe. I let myself feel the fear, the relief.
But also the pride. The kid did well. He impressed me, even. It gave me hope that he was growing up okay. He showed me more about who he was.
He gave me even more to love in the world.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Written by: Brad Fruhauff
Brad Fruhauff is a film buff, comics nerd, literature scholar, editor, and writer living in Evanston, Illinois. He is Senior Editor at Relief: A Christian Literary Review and a Writing and Communications Specialist at Trinity International University where he also serves as Contributing Editor for Sapientia. He has published poems, essays, and reviews in Books & Culture, catapult, Christianity and Literature, Englewood Review of Books, Every Day Poems, Not Yet Christmas: An Advent Reader, Rock & Sling, and in the newly released How to Write a Poem.