|I imaginatively named my very first teddy bear – Bear Bear
I was eight when my youngest sister Mary was born. She was the first girl in my family to have blond hair and blue eyes like me and that contributed to me imagining myself as her surrogate mother. Whenever I got the chance, I carried her around, dressed her, fed her, scolded her, and basically was up in her face 24-7.
Did this have anything to do with her moving across the ocean to Spain as an adult?
I’ll admit there’s a possibility.
As Mary got older, she started to demonstrate the basic human desire for autonomy and personal space. She would squirm out of my fierce hugs and run around the house screaming, “I am NOT your teddy bear!” (My Mom coached her to say this to me, and I am not sure I have forgiven her yet.)
The past few Gospel readings this Lent have portrayed a courageous Jesus who speaks the truth, even though he is really ticking people off. Jesus knows his claims to divinity are going to be the death of him, but he keeps speaking.
The theme that kept popping out at me in these recent readings was that of Jesus hiding:
Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their grasp. – John 10:39
So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. – John 8:59
So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews. – John 11:53-4
As I read these readings, I thought at first, “How strange that the King of the Universe would run and hide!” But then as I pondered further, I realized that it shows that Jesus died on his own terms.
There are many things in Scripture that show us that Jesus was not caught off guard by his death. He began prophesying it very soon after his ministry began and he realized that his message was going to be rejected by most. Jesus knew that his death was imminent, but he also knew how he was meant to die. Jesus did not know this because he could always predict the future. Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, which means that he did not have super powers. Jesus was limited by his humanity.
However, I believe Jesus had a sense of how he was going to die because he knew the Word of God. Jesus is always concerned about the fulfillment of Scripture. He is constantly saying, “In order to fulfill Scripture…” So, it makes sense that Jesus knew that his death was meant to fulfill Scripture in a way that was unexpected and surprisingly, but nonetheless consistent with how God had revealed Himself throughout salvation history. So, like a good Jew, concerned with fulfilling Scripture properly, Jesus runs and hides until the right time.
As I thought about the image of Jesus hiding, I realized that this is sometimes true in our prayer lives. We try to chase Jesus down but he is not always within our grasp. He is always right near us, but sometimes he disappears when we try to grasp him and control him.
Jesus is not a teddy bear.
In my recent discernment for moving on to novitiate I have made many demands on Jesus, trying to control him and force him to work within my timetable. Jesus doesn’t run and hide from me, he just silently hopes I will try another tactic. But, I have trouble with other tactics. I just keep chasing him around the house with my arms outstretched saying, “Come here right now buddy!” But I am quickly finding out that when I try to grasp and force God into a box, it just doesn’t work.
God cannot be controlled. God cannot be forced. God can only be trusted.
So this Lent, if you are feeling like God is hiding from you, maybe it is time to look for him in another place. Or maybe it’s just time to try another tactic.
Jesus, help us to love you with the intimacy that a child loves its teddy bear, but please help us when we try to grasp and control. Like little children, we want a God who we can govern. We think we know so much. Jesus, help us to trust you and to rest like little children in your arms as this Lent comes to an end.