Dec 052013 4 Responses

What To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

Parents, do you remember the first night your brought your baby home from the hospital? Nearly every parent has the same feeling. It’s as though you are stealing something when you leave the hospital. “You’re just going to let me walk out of here with this thing?”

You get home and make it through the day pretty easily, but then comes the night. Your head hits the pillow and your eyes pop wide open. Was that a noise? Is the baby in the right position to sleep? Is she still breathing? Was that a cry?

A million questions come to mind. And even if a parent is able to look past the immediate questions, at some point the reality of what has happened sets in and other questions appear.

  • How will we pay for college?
  • Are the local schools good enough?
  • What if my habit becomes her habit?
  • How early can I teach him to play ball?

I wonder what it was like that first night for Mary and Joseph with Jesus? The pregnancy had been filled with doubts. Mary wondering how it could be; Joseph wondering if it actually happened the way he was told it happened. All those questions came to an end at the birth of Jesus.

Yet as quickly as those doubts faded, I can’t help but think that new doubts were born.

How were they to raise the Son of God?

As if figuring out parenthood wasn’t difficult enough, what would be the unique challenges of raising God’s son? We assume that their job was far easier than the normal parents—no need for curfews, chores, or house rules (unless Jesus wanted to make some for them). Yet I can’t imagine they felt comfortable that first night with the challenges that lay ahead.

Where do you begin in parenting divinity? Philosophy, theology, communication, all are skills that the Son of Man will need. Do you move to a big city? Private school or public? What sacrifices will be required to make this boy great?

It sounds silly doesn’t it? Surely Mary and Joseph didn’t sit and worry about all the things we worry about.

Or maybe they worried more.

So it is with a child that is born “different.” The concerns are doubled. The unknown of parenting is multiplied by the unknown of a unique child. Just when we think we have our hands wrapped around the idea of parenthood, new challenges present themselves. What were Mary and Joseph to do?

What will we do? It’s a question I hear all the time. I hear it from others and it echoes in my own mind. As I think about the future and the difficulties which lay ahead, I wonder what we will do.

The question is born from good intentions. We want to be responsible people so we consider what the future might hold. But it is a question marred with great danger.

“What will we do” can take the focus off of the present moment and place it into the great unknown—a place in which no question can truly be answered.

The question tempts us to ignore the task at hand and spend time worrying about possible future challenges. They are important questions, but often times they are questions which cannot be answered at the moment.

There was no way in which Mary and Joseph could have known all the future would hold for their son, but there was one thing they did know—what to do at that moment. While future actions are almost always clouded in mystery, present action is almost always extremely clear.

It was true for Mary and Joseph and the same is probably true for us. We know all that we need to know in order to properly respond to God in this moment. This doesn’t mean that we can see the future or predict what we might need, but it does mean that for right now, we probably know all we need to know in order to obey.

On that first Christmas night, for Mary to respond to God’s call her job was to simply pick up her son, keep him warm, feed him, comfort him, and sing to him. In that moment, raising the Son of God was just like raising any other baby. Mary could do that. Like any new mother, she would quickly become an expert on exactly what baby Jesus needed. In the midst of all of her doubts of what the future held, she was an expert in the moment.

I think the same is often true for us. We aren’t experts in the future. There are things ahead of us which for which we are not prepared. But we can do today. We can focus on the moment and do what we know to do.

Chances are those things won’t feel very holy. They won’t feel unique or special. Yet they are our spiritual act of worship. They are our obedient responses to where God has placed us in this moment.

  • Maybe you don’t know your future major or which college you will attend, but you can pay attention in high school today.
  • Maybe you don’t know who your future spouse will be, but you can date with integrity in your current relationship.
  • Maybe you don’t know if this is the job you want for the rest of your life, but you can give it all you’ve got for today.
  • Maybe you don’t know if the treatment will work to give you a tomorrow, but you can enjoy the gift of today.

Mary and Joseph probably didn’t feel very holy as they simply loved Jesus that first Christmas, but they did exactly what they needed to do in the moment.

Chances are, at this moment, for us to obediently respond to God’s call means something similar—going to work or school, taking care of the kids, doing some laundry or fixing a meal, calling a friend who is hurting, visiting someone at the nursing home, or sending a text to tell someone we are thinking about them. These actions don’t seem holy. They don’t resolve the great questions of “What will we do then?” But they do resolve the more important question of “What can we do now?”

4 Responses to What To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue
  1. Lorrie Runion Reply

    This is where I camped out while raising my kids. A whole lot about don’t overthink tomorrow and be in the here and now where ever you are.

    A poem quoted by Elisabeth Elliot
    Do The Next Thing

    “At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
    there came in the twilight a message to me.
    Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
    that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
    And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
    like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’

    Many a questioning, many a fear,
    many a doubt hath its quieting here.
    Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
    time, opportunity, guidance are given.
    Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
    trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

    Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
    do it reliantly, casting all care.
    Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
    who placed it before thee with earnest command.
    Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
    leave all resultings, do the next thing.

    Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
    working or suffering be thy demeanor,
    in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
    the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
    Do the next thing.”

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  3. João Reply

    This is so true. We worry because we want tomorrow’s needs met today.

    But I was just wondering if Mary and Joseph had understood then (right after Jesus’ birth) all about His divine nature. They new He would be the Messiah and Savior, but did they know He was God? The Jews back then and even today do not think the Messiah would be God Incarnate. But it doesn’t really matter for the point you made, the thought of raising the Messiah, even if only a man, must have been terrifying!

    “Mary, did you know?”

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