I wonder if Mary and Joseph told anyone that their 12 year old, Jesus, had disappeared for three days while the family was attending a festival. Or if the father of the prodigal son shared with his rotary club friends that his son was out squandering his inheritance at the casinos in Vegas. I remember when my son made a terrible choice one night in high school. I both lived in fear of someone finding out about it. And I desperately wanted to talk to someone about it. But shame and fear kept me silent about the true nature of my angst.
Why is it that we so freely share with a stranger on the playground that potty training is not going well for our toddler? But once our beloved children face the trials and tribulations of adolescence and young adulthood we so often suffer in silence? I have a bright and talented niece who spent one of her first weeks of college in a mental hospital learning about an undiagnosed sensory limitation. It was terrifying and no one knew quite what to say or do. And I remember my nephew wanting to drop out of college not because he didn’t have friends or make good grades but because he was simply lost and afraid and unsure why he was at school anyway. So often we think that we are the only parent or the only family member in this dark and lonely place. While in truth many of our closest friends are experiencing similar situations.
A faith community, when it works best, offers us a place we can name what is true about our lives. It may be in the silence of the sanctuary or in a small group with trusted confidants. In the church we are not called to be right or perfect all the time. Here we are free to honestly name our truth in the presence of the holy.
When my mother was 80, we visited her college roommate, Myra, who she had not seen in over 25 years. As we sat down my mother told Myra, “I still have the card you sent me when my first daughter was born 55 years ago. You composed a poem on the occasion of her birth.” Then, to my shock, my Mom recited the poem from memory. Then Mom turned to Myra and said, “I always wondered how you knew exactly what I was feeling as a new Mom because you had no children at the time.” Those mysterious, sacred words of understanding revealed a holy presence that lingers to this day.