I often wonder why the gospels are silent about Jesus’ adolescent, teenage and early adult years? For 18 years, from the age of 12 to 30, we read nothing about Jesus.
Some scholars call these the “hidden years,” and I’m interested in them because I want to know how the Savior of the world navigated the monotony of everyday life.
At no point did Jesus’ life more closely parallel mine than in these years. I don’t know much about healing the blind. I can’t relate to Jesus multiplying bread and fish or preaching to thousands.
But I do know a thing or two about the ordinary life. The unexciting and un-extraordinary day-to-day, Monday-Friday, eat-work-eat-sleep kind of life.
Not that I have the ordinary life figured out. I just mean I live in it more often than I live in anything else.
I would love to draw some insight into how my Savior navigated his ordinary time. Some encouragement, at the very least. I don’t doubt he did normal stuff like you and me. He used the john, obeyed his parents, helped around the house, slept, laughed, cried. Jesus did normal, everyday, human stuff.
The one season of Jesus’ life I would most appreciate some insight, and I get nothing.
For most of us, life is just ordinary, nothing like Jesus’ life. This plain ol’ life bothers us, nags us. We were created for more, we think. More than just a parent or a spouse or a businessman.
I feel the tug. I get it.
I think we forget, however, most of Jesus’ life was ordinary. His public ministry lasted only 3-5 years. It’s easy to forget, to look past, the 18 or so hidden years and hyper-focus on the five public ones. Ordinary time is wasted time, after all.
We should ask ourselves, however, why the infatuation with an extraordinary life? Why is anything less than a feeding-the-five-thousand kind of life a wasted one?
I don’t think it was God.
For whatever reason, we lust after mountaintop experiences. It’s here, on the summit, we think God is found. This is an ancient problem, going back to the book of Genesis and the Tower of Babel, where the people decided to build a structure tall enough to touch the floor of heaven. Rather than applaud their effort, God chastises their pride. And for good measure, he confuses their language, thus preventing another such collaborative disaster.
Later in his ministry, Jesus would climb a mountain to be transfigured. Peter, James and John would make the trek with him. What their eyes beheld must have blown their mind.
But they didn’t stay on the mountain. After the light show, Jesus told the men not to say anything to the others (yeah, right…I’m tellin’ everybody) and they return to ground level.
Do you see what’s happening? When people set out in search of God, whether it’s building a tower, climbing a mountain, pilgrimaging to a certain land or manufacturing a certain feeling, God sends them back home. We think God is out there, in life’s highs, far from the pain and suffering and boredom of everyday life.
Yet, God shows us something different.
Life happens primarily on the ground, not in the mountains. In the messy, ordinary routines, that’s where you find God. God transforms us through the mundane, not despite it.
Oh sure, mountaintop experiences are powerful. Maybe you’ve had a few. But mountaintops aren’t for staying. They’re for renewing and refocusing.
The real work of the Gospel takes place on the ground, where real people live, where relationship and connection happen. That’s where God transforms our hearts and minds because that’s where we spend most of our days. I’m skeptical of any theology that encourages people to take up residence on the mountaintop of emotional or physical highs and devalues ordinary time.
Ordinary time is sacred time.
I don’t know what Jesus did in those hidden years, before the crowds and the miracles. I do know he was no less (or more) God’s son. I do know God was with Jesus in obscurity just like God was with Jesus when he was baptized or when brought sight to the blind or when he was transfigured.
And I do know God is with us right where we are. The fullness of our Creator is all around us in this moment. No need to pray for God to show up. No need to wait for the next emotional high. God is everywhere, in all his power and glory, right now. May we have eyes to see him.