I am a father to two teenagers now and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.
I love their independence, I love their unique personalities, I love the capacity they have for mature relational connection. I see in their eyes the light of re-cognition (yes, the hyphen is deliberate).
They are growing, ever-learning.
My son turned 13 just a few days ago and it got me to thinking about that pivotal time in the life of Jesus when he was twelve and he traveled to Jerusalem with his family and others from the village of Nazareth to celebrate one of “the high holy days” (as one author puts it).
The story is told that the family made their way to return to Nazareth at the end of the celebration only to discover that Jesus was not with them. (Likely, they thought he had been traveling with his friends and relatives.) So, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. They looked and looked and finally found him in the Temple, speaking with the great teachers of the Law.
I thought of this story on my son’s birthday and my heart swelled with gratitude that we follow a God who knows what it’s like to be a teenager. It astounds me that the creator of the universe would know how to be a student at Mary Gage Peterson Elementary School in Chicago. He would have known what it felt like to be teased by some of his classmates and he would have figured out how to get them off his back. He would have liked to play with his remote control car and build things with Lego bricks, still working out if he was a kid or an adult in this in-between time. The fingers in his gloves might have turned inside out; his mother might have had to fix this.
The Jesus in our house can be found sitting at his desk working on a 1,000-word essay all on his own, without being nagged to do it. He forgets to take showers. He asks for pancakes to celebrate his birthday. He is learning karate and one of his best friends is a Muslim. He loads the dishwasher without complaint and walks the dog every day. He loves a good joke and laughs uncontrollably when his mama teases him. He loves it when friends come over to dinner and he does his Bible study faithfully every week. He sings loud and strong in the car and helps his dad shovel snow.
He is Jesus here in our home because he is never anything else but whole-hearted. I love that Jesus knew how to be a teenager but that is nothing compared to the joy of seeing first-hand that teenagers know how to be Jesus.