The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Fruit of the Mystery: The Joy of Christ
Jesus, Others, Yourself
Virtue of joy
Virtue: High standards or morals
J.O.Y: JESUS, OTHERS, YOURSELF
Joy can seem elusive. Everyone is searching for it, but if you break it into its parts, it’s easier to translate and apply.
Someone once told me that joy was an acronym for “Jesus, others, yourself” and that when you put those things in that order, you can find joy.
The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ parents searching for him after losing him while traveling. In this holy text, I found not only an application to my own story but a definition of joy and virtue that is personified by Jesus — one that can be part of all of our lives when we put him first.
My tale begins with my third child, Abraham.
Religion used to be the last thing I’d choose to write abut when reflecting on joy. But Jesus moves my heart to share a brief part of my ever-evolving testimony.
Just last year, after 11 years of marriage, my husband and I separated. He had struggled with drugs, alcohol, and other addictions for too long without change. I tried everything I could to make it work, but his problems crossed the lines of emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse again and again.
After my husband again refused help and counseling, I asked him to leave our home. Precisely 14 days later, I discovered I was six weeks pregnant. The breaking of my husband’s promises to me and the loss of another baby six months prior made this news feel overwhelming.
Before my shift at work one night, I told my estranged husband about our baby. As he held a beer in his hand, he responded with words that cut me like a burning blade. He looked at me in a way I didn’t recognize and said, “Good luck with your baby.”
He still wanted to control me with false apologies and threats, but I knew my family and I had been through too much to settle for anything but true rehabilitation. I held fast to God’s standards for marriage and held out hope that my husband would rise to the challenge. Instead, he sought solace in the arms of another lost soul — a woman we both worked with at the time — 31 days after learning I was pregnant.
It was then that I knew I’d be taking on this pregnancy in the midst of a separation. Our married life together was ending when the God of parables chose for another life to begin.
I was riddled with fear. I had an immeasurable number of questions for my Lord: “My savior! Where are you? Why would you allow this?”
Let’s put a pin in my story and jump into Luke 2:41-52.
Luke reveals that every year, Jesus and his family visited Jerusalem for Passover. This family tradition resembles married life, the Holy Family’s literal travel mirroring the walk of faith that marriage is meant to be. Both of these journeys — their customs, our faith — are under one God.
One day into their return journey home, Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus. They were shocked to find him gone, thinking he had been there all along. Similarly, I was walking along with my husband, believing Christ was with us and unaware that my spouse had left him behind as he slowly quit leading, reading, and going to church.
Mary knew she was the Mother of Christ; she must have felt overwhelmed, searching for her divine Son, knowing all the while that he was Emmanuel. Like Mary, I knew who God was, but I was helpless to fix my marriage and worried about what the future would hold.
Eventually, Mary and Joseph did find Jesus. Where? In his father’s house, of course! My favorite translation of this verse says that Jesus was “about his Father’s business.”
In his house and through this business is where I found healing.
It’s comforting to know that even Mary had questions for Jesus about her struggles: “Why have you treated us this way? We were searching for you!”
This is how I felt when infidelity pulled the rug out from under my marriage. I felt utterly hopeless, crying in my pastor’s office with zero answers, zero clarity, and 100% uncertainty. I’m sure as a mother, Mary felt just as frantic when she couldn’t find her son.
His answer surely amazed her: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I’d be about my father’s business?” The reply is almost chastising, like he is lovingly saying, “Duh, silly human mother!”
Jesus had a mission, and we can rely on his word in Philippians 1:6 for reassurance in that mission: Be confident in this, “that he who started a good work in you [I started following Jesus in 2010] will carry it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
That’s until he returns or until I leave his earth!
Jesus’ blunt answer at the temple speaks to me now as I parent my children on my own. In the hard moments we all have as mothers, I still ask, “Why would you allow this?” But the usual peace in our home and solace in His presence, which have replaced the chaos that once ran my life, convey the answer.
As I frantically searched for him and questioned where he was, he was about his father’s business. The business of creating life, healing hearts, rendering miracles, releasing his children from bondage, exposing sin and truth, protecting me, and blessing me while I endured and persevered (James 1:2-4).
It’s a wonder to me that in the ashes of divorce and abuse, I find beauty in the lives of my two young sons. In the heartache of betrayal, I find relief in the arms of my One True Love.
“But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”
Mary surely experienced this wonder as her son went home with her, honored her, and as the Scripture says, “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).
As I compare the Finding in the Temple to my own journey, I see many parallels, and I will treasure all of those things in my heart.
First, J, Jesus: Mary’s seeking her Lord is like my seeking guidance to leave an abusive situation through faith-based counseling. We both sought Jesus first.
Then, O, Others: Mary had people who helped her look for Jesus, and I had the support of my family, church and friends as I navigated an unexpected new beginning
Finally, Y, You (me): As Mary exemplified, I lived and all mothers know, mothers sacrifice to give our best to our children, routinely putting them ahead of ourselves.
We treasure in our hearts: JOY
While God created life in my son Abraham, healed our hearts through sound counsel, and rendered miracle after miracle, the people he placed in my life while I was pregnant and sick in heart and body took care of me. God provided everything we needed, even donations for a new home just in time for Christmas.
God released my children from the bondage of a toxic environment, no longer witnessing my stress and emotional abuse. He exposed sin and truth by bringing my ex-husband’s secrets, pornography habit, and drug use to light. It was hurtful to know the truth, but this divine appointment opened my eyes to the reality of our issues in a way that I couldn’t ignore.
God protected my soul by helping me escape the idolatry of my toxic marriage. He blessed me with a second chance at life and a second son — both of which I dedicate right back to the God who gives!
My first son is named after the earthly fathers in our family and my second son is named for our spiritual lineage: Abraham, the Father of Many Nations.
Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4
About Ann-Marie: Ann-Marie Fischer is a working single mother of three living the country life in the mountains of Arizona with her boys and dogs. She is a Massachusetts native who finds her true joy in raising her children, reading God’s word and sharing her testimony.