Did you have a difficult childhood?
In some ways, mine was very fortunate. We went to an excellent private school, enjoyed affluence, and were surrounded by loving family, mentors, and friends. At the same time, there were painful elements: my dad’s departure from our family after his decision to get separated and then divorce my mom was a difficulty I keenly felt on a daily basis.
As I hear other stories of people’s childhood experiences, my heart is moved with compassion. Abuse, trauma, poverty, and more.
So this morning I reflected on how Jesus understands difficult childhoods:
As an infant, he fled from Bethlehem to Egypt as a refugee to escape King Herod’s decree. This would have led to massive upheaval and instability in those critical early years. New culture, new language, new foods - and economic uncertainties. And many of the people they knew were collectively scarred by the sudden, violent death of their sons.
Then, growing up in Nazareth, it’s possible that his piety, righteousness, and wisdom would have set him apart from other kids - so he might have been mocked, bullied, or ignored.
It also seems that Joseph disappears from the story after he goes to the Temple at age 12. If this were because Joseph died, Jesus would have grieved the loss of his earthly father in his teenage years. Simultaneously, he would have had to take on more responsibility in his family.
Add to all of this that even in Israel, he and his fellow Jews were under Roman occupation. They had no political voice and suffered under oppressive taxation. Jesus would have witnessed fellow Jews experiencing “police brutality” from Roman soldiers who didn’t adhere to contemporary ethical norms of maintaining civic order.
It’s an amazing story, that God would identify with us in so many of our hardships and struggles.