We are not so different, it seems, from Mary and Joseph. For when we can’t seem to find Jesus—when he is not where we think he ought to be—we also tend to ask the questions: “Where are you? Why have you treated us this way?” As if our idea of where Jesus should be and what he should do were somehow more accurate than his own.
But luckily Jesus doesn’t cater to us. He doesn’t always behave quite the way we want him to. He operates on a whole different wavelength. He sees things from a larger, more eternal perspective, and he acts accordingly. Therefore, he doesn’t always give us what we want, or what we think we need. But he is always present; just maybe not in the ways we are demanding and expecting at the moment. He is always right where he is supposed to be. “Why were you looking all over for me?” he says. “I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in my Father’s house. I am also in my word and in my creation and even in your heart, as well as the hearts of those you are in community with. So don’t run around anxiously looking for me, you know right where to find me. I am, and always will be, Emmanuel, God with us.”
So when we find ourselves asking Jesus, as Mary and Joseph did, “Why have you treated us this way?” we need to ask ourselves what is behind that question. For there are two different ways of looking at it. One way is through the lenses of demand and entitlement, as if saying, “Jesus, why are you not where I think you should be and why are you not doing what I think you should do?” But the other way of seeing this question is much different, and much more life-giving. It is looking at it through the lenses of grace and gratitude. It is when we come to Jesus, not demanding that he show up in some preconceived way, but grateful that he has made us his own when he did not have to, and when we did not deserve it. It is coming to him with a spirit that says, “God, I do not deserve you. I do not deserve your grace and I do not deserve your blessings. But even still, you, because of your great love, have made me your own. You have blessed me with life and salvation and family and community that I do not deserve. Thank you!” The question is, what lenses will I choose to look through today? How will I ask that question? Because how I ask that question makes all the difference.