Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jesus and Me: The Lost Years

There's a (very) long stretch of Christ's life that is not recorded in the gospels. Depending on which gospel you read, you might be led to believe Jesus emerges, sui generis and ex nihilo, around his thirtieth birthday, conducted his public ministry, and died three years later (Mark). Or you get some birth narratives, and small tantalizing teases about his early childhood--refugee in Egypt, left behind in Jerusalem studying Scripture with the rabbis--in some other gospels (Matthew and Luke).

These lost years of Jesus came to mind today as I was contemplating, late on this Thursday afternoon, how much I didn't do and how much time I wasted this week.

This isn't to say I did nothing all week. I taught a bible study, led and preached at Lenten worship, spent time in some counseling sessions, finished some projects, conducted a couple of interviews. In fact on some of those measures it was a busy week.

But I'm talking about time in the office. It is even hard for me to summarize what I did while in the office much of this week. I fumbled around, shuffled papers, looked at books on the shelf, sat in the chair, stood and prayed. Looking back, some of those hours are simply lost hours. I could have been more productive, but I wasn't.

Returning to the lost years of Jesus, some authors (like the Gnostics, or Anne Rice, or Mel Gibson) have had to invent things for Jesus to be doing during his teen and early adult years. The Gnostics had him doing fun magic tricks. Anne Rice gives us Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel, and Mel Gibson in his bloody Jesus movie has Jesus inventing modern day tables and chairs (really!).

But what if the middle years of Jesus' life were honestly and truly like my lost hours at work this week?  What if there is nothing to report because there is nothing to report? Is it possible that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could be illustrating his "self-emptying" (like the Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11) even in the very life he lives from his birth to his public ministry?

I don't know. I have typically resisted interpreting this lacunae in the gospel testimony precisely because it is so clearly an intentional lacunae. The gospels are very intentional in their construction. If Christ's life from approximately twelve to twenty-nine years old is not recorded in the gospels, there is a reason.

But I think we can give at least a little space to interpreting the absence. Reading between the lines, interpreting the white space--these are appropriate interpretive moves whether you are a postmodernist or a Rabbinic scholar.

Some things can only be born after long gestation. Just because nothing is happening doesn't mean nothing is happening. I am convinced my spinning wheels were, in this week, essential to some major work I have coming up, including Holy Week preaching and a presentation I will give at the ELCA in early April. My heart and mind need the space.

I guess there are better and worse ways to spend lost hours and weeks and years. My better hours "spinning my wheels" were spent away from social networks, and with less clutter on the desk. Once I was just sitting and contemplating, once I was in the sauna with nothing but the heat, the lostness was even more lost.

Sometimes in order to be found we have to be lost for a while. Perhaps for Christ to be Christ for us of necessity he had to be nobody, nowhere for no-one first.

1 comment:

  1. Please take a look at what I learned about the missing years of Jesus at