I know the headings in the Bible are not Scripture. But, every once in a while the heading brings me up short. I opened my copy of the Scriptures and turned to Matthew 1. The heading immediately following the genealogy of Jesus says, in bold, Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son.
Thankfully, my dad has always accepted me as his son. But there have been times when our relationship has been more distant than either of us would have liked. I distinctly remember a period in my life when all I wanted was to hear him say, “I’m proud of you.” When that day came it lifted my spirit and soul in a way that is difficult to explain.
When I saw that heading my mind immediately went to friends who have not been accepted by their parents. The hurt, anguish, and heartbreak of their experience is too painful for words. Some of you reading this, may have experienced similar trauma in your life. If you have, I am so sorry. To be found unacceptable by a parent is more painful than anything I could describe. My heart aches with yours.
Jesus, prior to being born could have experienced something similar. The Scriptures say,
His mother Mary was pledged to be married Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19)
The story continues that Joseph had a dream and the angel of the Lord appeared to him and explained everything. Most importantly he helped Joseph understand the singular importance of the life that Mary carried inside her: “he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph most likely didn’t think of that the way modern Evangelicals do. He most likely thought that this meant his son would become a great military leader and lead the Jews to victory over the Romans, bringing them out of exile.
Joseph wakes up and did what he was commanded to do. In other words, he continued to be a man who was faithful.
Ultimately, God the Father wanted to make sure that God the Son’s earthly father accepted him. What beauty is that? What great love?
One of my favorite television shows is The Resident. One of the story lines is about a doctor who was adopted and then his birth parents came back wanting a relationship. It is beautiful as they work through all the emotions and desires of the birth parents wanting what was best for their son. There is also great beauty in the relationship of the son to the adoptive parents. This was all rooted in the context of mutual love.
In some sense Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father. He had to make a choice to accept him or not. He chose acceptance and cared for him as his own.
I think that in this story of Jesus we see our own stories reflected. We desire to be loved and accepted, particularly by those closest to us. We often fear that our parents will reject us. Or our spouses or close friends. In each of us is the innate desire to be loved for who we are, accepted.
This played out for me with a desire to hear my dad say, “I’m proud of you.” When he did, I knew that I was accepted. There was a confidence in me that he saw me for who I was and embraced me. If my story was ever written the heading of that chapter would be Mark Accepts Dan as His Son and it would it be beautiful, because it was. And the thing is, it wasn’t some big momentous occasion, it was just a comment in a phone call. Those are often when beauty shines brightest.
Do you have stories of acceptance? Or stories of not being accepted? I invite you to share them in the comments. If you need someone to embrace you and let you know you’re accepted, reach out, I’m here.