"After this one unusual episode at age twelve, it is not until Jesus is thirty years old that we meet him again. The eighteen years in between are 'hidden.'"
—From Ch. 9 ("Self-Aware") of Jesus Journey
As a white, North American Christian growing up in the twentieth century, there was no symbolic rite of passage celebrating or acknowledging my transition from childhood into adulthood.
However, I can think of a number of significant events that many of us would consider to be “transition moments”—moments that ushered us from one significant phase of life into another: graduating from high school and then from university, getting married, beginning a career, obtaining a master’s and/or doctoral degree, having a child, etc.
Whether on this list or not, I’m sure each of us could think back on our lives and recall moments when we felt we were leaving behind an old version of ourselves to step into a bigger, better, more “grown up” version of ourselves.
And with each of these transition moments comes the expectations—from both ourselves and others—as to what this new version of ourselves should look like, what we should now be doing, who we should now be. But seriously, no pressure at all, right?!?
I can’t help but wonder how young Jesus felt as he was heading back home with his parents after his unusual experience in the Temple described in chapter nine of Jesus Journey. As Trent pointed out, the three days he spent there likely marked a very significant moment in Jesus’ life as a twelve-year-old Jewish boy. He was stepping into his manhood, becoming aware of his own unique identity and calling, separate from that of his parents.
And yet, Jesus returns home with his parents that day to begin the longest stretch of his life—eighteen years!—of which we know the least about. When it seems young Jesus is more certain of his calling than ever before, his response is not the beginning of his public ministry, but rather eighteen years of silence, hiddenness.
I recently completed my graduate studies, another transition moment in my life. As a healthcare practitioner, I was certain I would finish my studies and continue on in my journey of “saving the world”—one patient, one woman, one child at a time. I jest, but in some ways I’m also serious.
I felt a true and genuine invitation from God to pursue studies in nursing, specifically maternal/child health, more than fifteen years ago now. I completed my undergraduate degree, and then worked as an obstetric nurse for six years before going back to school to complete my graduate studies. My years of graduate school were intense, they were grueling, but I felt sure they were further preparing me to step more deeply into my calling.
So with my Super Woman cape on, I graduated… and with all the expectations of what this new version of myself should look like, should do, should be, I stepped into a season of hiddenness.
The past two-and-a-half years have been years of silence, of hiddenness for me. I feel like I have so much more to offer the world than changing diapers/nappies and kissing "ow-ies" when my little girl hurts herself, and yet I know that this is some of the most sacred and holy work I will ever do. I am “Mom” to the most amazing little two-year old girl you ever could imagine, and now my husband and I are newly expecting another little human as well!
It is the greatest gift of my life to be a mom, but I also feel more hidden, more unseen than ever before. Like Jesus’ years twelve to thirty, if someone were writing about my life, these would likely be the years you’d know the least about...
I’ve had some hard, bad days in this season. I’ve asked God some very loaded questions. And I can’t help but wonder if Jesus may have done the same.
Like me, did Jesus question if he had heard God correctly; did he wonder if he’d still have what it takes when his season of hiddenness was over; did he ever feel like he wasn't living up to the potential of his calling during his hidden years? I have to imagine he had some difficult days working for eighteen years as a craftsman, assuming he knew his ultimate calling was that of Messiah.
But that’s just the thing…Jesus was no less Messiah during those years of hiddenness than during his years of public ministry—just as we are no less of who God has made us and called us to be in our seasons of hiddenness.
We may know very little about Jesus’ life during those eighteen years, but Abba saw them all, all of Jesus’ hidden days…just as He sees ours.
I’ve come to the place where I (mostly) believe that now, and I don’t want to wish this season away. Rather, like Jesus, I want to find Abba in the hiddenness of these very ordinary—but no less holy—days.
Today's guest post is by Sarah Bryce: Sarah and her husband Joel were housemates and later neighbors of Bronwyn and Trent in East Boston, and they were also part of the Ekklesia Eastie church family before moving to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2014. Sarah is a former Labor and Delivery Nurse, and is now a (non-practicing) Family Nurse Practitioner with a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She is passionate about maternal/child health, and is currently living that out in the very day-to-day, ordinary experience of being a full-time mom to her daughter Victoria.
Image credits: "girl with plant"—Edgar Buenas / "woman at ocean" & "girl at ocean"—Chelsea Hudson