You’ve probably now heard the story of the terrible Miner-Garrity Family. Read all about it http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/world/52469658-68/garrity-card-court-lawsuit.html.csp here. Tutting will be involved in your response and for just a little amount of time, you’ll have the chance to feel smugly superior to these horrible people. No one in this story comes out of it with any credit apart from the judge who could see where this was going a mile away.
Bad parents have been around for a long time. Come to my parish and I could introduce you to some very questionable parenting. Ask most parents and they will admit to being subpar more often than being top of the league. Nobody trains you to be a parent. No manual pops out just
after the placenta. There’s no exam.
So a good “the country is going to the dogs, will you get a load of these people” story should make us all think about how fragile this family thing is and always has been. Jesus knew as well as anyone what these tensions were. For instance, he comes home to do some preaching and makes claims about what God is doing through him. His family ask him to come home and stop making so much crazy talk. A prophet in his hometown and sitting at his mother’s kitchen table gets no honour.
We have a family joke in our household about teenage Jesus getting upset because of Joseph laying down the law. He shouts angrily, “You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my real dad!” and Joseph stalks off angry and hurt knowing Jesus is right.
Mary and Joseph are in a relationship they want but with implications they didn’t ask for. They get this child who they have to care for and they get all their mistakes on the record. For instance when he is 12 they go to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41-48). They do all the things they need to do and then head off with the caravan back to their home town. After it’s been underway awhile, they realise that their son isn’t with them. Bad parenting to the max.
So they rush back to Jerusalem and find him in the temple, sitting with his elders, teaching them like an old pro. After Mary does the “oh my god my baby/I’ll kill you if you ever do something like that again” routine she expresses how worried they both were about him.
Jesus delivers what to any parent must feel like a fatal blow: “Where else did you expect to find me except in my father’s house?” Well, we expected you to be by our side, we expected you to be our boy. But no matter what we expect, you’re someone else’s boy in the end.
No matter how much good advice you can get, all you can really do is your best. Talk to your kids and ask how they’re feeling and take the hit when they tell you that you’re getting an F at the moment. You have to remember that they act childishly because frankly, they are children. My kids seem to think I’m okay and aren’t going to trade me in, though there are times when they are tempted. I need to remember that and honour it by treating them as people rather than accessories.
One of the potential blessings as minister (and being a member of a community of faith) is that your kids get to meet lots of adults of quality and learn stuff from them and be treated well by them. My kids have learned great things from the people in their church. They’ve learned about service and tolerance and dedication. They’ve learned about justice and compassion and hard work. They’ve also learned that things don’t always go the way you planned them to. I’m grateful that they have been surrounded by lots of parents who, probably subconsciously, want to help us do our best. I hope that we’ve been returning the favour too.
So feel smug and move on. If you play your cards right, maybe your attempts at parenting won’t hit the papers too.