"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 29: Honor Your Parents

"'Honor your father and mother'"--which is the first commandment with a promise--'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.'" Eph. 6:2

What is it like for you to pick out Father's Day or Mother's Day cards? There are the sappy Father's Day cards with pictures of sailboats or dad and lad playing catch. They say things like: "You were always there for me...," or "Thank your for your wonderful example." Or, the Mother's Day cards with flowers that talk about how kind and gentle mother is. For me, sentiments like that feel dishonest and insincere. And, so, if I purchase a card at all it is always a comical one. In recent years, I've just foregone the card and had my folks over for dinner. The greeting card industry is not very good at doing what God commands---honoring imperfect parents. The command, after all, is honor your father and mother. Not honor your father and mother, unless . . . . There are no exceptions.

You can't really blame the greeting card people. It's a very tricky thing. Over the years, I've given a lot of thought to this command and to the issue of honoring imperfect parents. I'm left with more questions than answers. How does one honor an alcoholic father? Does honoring him mean pretending that there's nothing wrong? Does honoring him mean forgetting about the past? Or hiding his sins and my hurts?

I wouldn't know what to tell someone about how to honor, for example, a physically abusive parent. For me, I feel that honoring my parents has been about forgiving them for their mistakes and thanking them for what they were able to give me. And, then, it's been about giving them my love, time, service, hospitality and encouragement. Sometimes, it has meant giving them those things even though they don't know how to receive them.

Sunday was my parents' 46th Anniversary. It's been a hard 46 years, but through it all they've somehow stayed together. Their committment to marriage is something worth celebrating and something that I'm sure has profoundly blessed me in ways that I can't begin to understand. Christina and I invited them over for Sunday dinner. I told them that 46 years was a big deal and something that we wanted to celebrate with them. I made some of their favorite things: steaks, twice baked potatoes and grilled veggies. They spent a little time with their grandkids. We had ice cream. They left. I don't have an ideal relationship with my parents, and I probably never will. I don't think honoring my parents requires me to deny that. I don't think "honoring" means pretending that everything is the way it should be. It does not mean buying the sappy card. I've come to believe that honoring my imperfect parents means moving beyond my regrets and sense of loss and giving thanks for the parents God gave me and loving them as they are the best that I can. I pray that someday my kids can do as much for their very imperfect dad.

1 comment:

  1. I believe you are on to something here, Nathan. My understanding of this particular command is that has more to do with our response to the Heavenly Father. Somehow, we trust that in His sovereignty He chose our parents, our whole lineage, to make us exactly who He wanted us to be. We have faith that He knows better than we do and then we trust Him. Part of that, I agree, is very much forgiving their imperfections and being thankful for the sacrifices they made to give us life, provisions, etc. I know as I am walking out parenting, I am much more forgiving of my parent's weaknesses. Apparently, I am just as much of a sinner in need of His grace!

    (btw...I so appreciate your transparency and desire to obey God's commands.)