Focus On the Family – My Parents & I
Many or almost all of us experienced some parental relationship tension when we were growing up. To some, our parents were “too strict” and we needed the freedom; to some, your father was not present, and you never knew him except for the occasional visit when he was on leave from the city. To some of us it is our mothers that we never saw eye to eye. Some girls were given parental responsibilities at far too early an age. To others we grew with foster parents because either our parents died early in life or we never knew them. All this represents who we are. We may ask ourselves how this has affected the relationships we have today with other people, society, and God?
Edith Schaeffer wrote a book entitled, What Is A Family? and in it she says, that, “…a family is a perpetual relay of truth. It is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living. It’s where character traits are sculptured under the watchful eyes of moms and dads—where steel-strong fibers are woven into the fabric of inner constitutions.”
My relationship with my parents is difficult and painful and I am wondering whether I should continue to see them. I was the youngest child. My father is a recovered alcoholic and was drinking when I was growing up and my mother was emotionally distant – working hard as the only supporter of the family but spending much of her free time out of the house away from my father. She always provided me with clothes, books and amazing travel opportunities, but never gave me any emotional support.
As a teenager, I developed eating disorders. My father persecuted me, blaming me for the family’s problems. We had volatile fights. My mother didn’t know how to deal with this and buried her head in the sand. I attempted suicide twice. I was given antidepressants, but therapy never followed.
At 18, I left for university (my mother fought my father over this, as he didn’t want me to leave home). I struggled with my eating disorders for years, eventually stopping with the help of therapy.
I am now in my 40s, married to a wonderful, supportive husband, and love being mother to two happy children and enjoy fulfilling work. However, I struggle hugely when visiting my family. I only see them once every year or two. Everyone tries to act as if we are a big, happy family. I struggle to pretend everything is OK, as I am angry and hurt. My parents make hurtful, insensitive remarks that take me back to being a teenager. Part of me doesn’t want to see my family at all. I debate whether it is worth discussing these issues with them, but I am not sure they have the emotional intelligence to engage and fear I will be left vulnerable and disappointed again.
Perhaps you may relate with this story. You may even be thinking mine is worse than this. We are going to look at our past and seek God to help us to understand ourselves and may be discover why we do things the way we do them. We may realize that we carry wounds and especially parental wounds; we may think they are small but could have a huge bearing in our life.
How should we relate with our parents?
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus, you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
Jesus spoke to the Pharisee in reference to the many religious traditions they had introduced to God’s law. They had made them equally important. Whereas some of our religious traditions are good, they must never be elevated to a sacred standing. God’s principles never change, and his law never needs additions. Traditions should help us understand God’s law better and not become laws themselves.
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[a] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[b] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[c] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
The Corban tradition “where people gave to God instead of helping their parents was against God’s command in Ex 20:12. This is what Jesus is talking about, that you can never neglect God’s commands for whatever reason including giving to Him.
How can we honor our parents?
Colossians (3:20) “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Paul expands this command in Ephesians 6 (1-3) where we read,
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
- “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise:
- “That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Obedience includes conscious and deliberate listening.
- PROVERBS 6:20 “My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother”;
- PROVERBS 23:22 “Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old”.
God in His wisdom has asked us to obey our parents, listen to them however wise or learned we think we are. It brings peace, and blessings to you.
- Recognize their wisdom:
Recognize your parent’s wisdom.
Honor means to Esteem and Respect
Lev. 19:3 “Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God”.
Honor is demonstrated through acts of Kindness and Caring: Let us refrain from acts that diminish the role of our parents or embarrassing them in public.
Sometimes we think this command is given to small children. It is given to adult children as well. God expects us to honor our parents and care for them irrespective of our age and status.
As we age, our roles with our parents change. We may not have to call our parents and ask them if we can stay out late anymore, we do not have to ask their permission to go places anymore, but I still say we must honor them.
This command covers anyone who has parents. It also includes all parents. There is no disclaimer or qualifier that says we are only to honor our parents IF they were deserving. My parents were great, so I have no problem honoring them NO!
This may be a tough pill to swallow for those who may have had abusive parents. Honoring your parents does not mean condoning abuse but even when we differ, it must be communicated with respect and understanding. Let us not spend too much time focusing on negativity either in front of our parents or behind their backs, we can find some good even in the midst of wrong.
I know It takes great courage to honor someone we deem not worthy. But if we cannot do this because of abuse, we allow the abuse to continue throughout our lives. It will affect our relationships and our children as we churn in hatred. It is possible to maintain cordial contact, assist a bad parent with basic needs when they need it.
What practical things can we do to honor parents?
- Appreciate the sacrifices they made for us-The time, the gifts you received even if it was once in a while; the careers they sacrificed so that they can be with us. Thank your parents for the love they showed you.
- We can honor our parents for not resenting what they were not and what they did not do for you. Some of us we are still whining on what we did not get when we were children. Let go off that bitterness and start living as a good parent. Let it help you to be a better parent. You are who you are today because God has blessed you. Honor your parents. Do not let the past ruin your life.
- Honor your parents by making them part of your family life. Why do you want to deny your children the honor of having grandparents? Your children will love you more when they see the love and respect you have for your own parents. You are not perfect either and if you display disrespect to your parents, your children will disrespect you too. They hear other children talk about their grandparents what goes on in their minds if they are not allowed to visit or be visited by their parents?
Please take care of your parents when they no longer can do so for themselves. They took care of you when it was not convenient to do so. They loved you when you were hard to love. God expects us to honor our parents by giving them proper Respect and Attention. We do not do so as a payback but out of obedience to God. Do not just do it in fear of punishment or in expectation of a reward of inheritance to their property. Do it because they are your parents and God says so.
Why is the command to love and honor our parents so important?
Parental honor lays the foundation for our attitude toward all other authority figures.
Martin Luther said, “Out of the authority of parents all other authority is derived and developed.”
All authority honor comes from the fifth commandment. If we do not learn to honor our parents we cannot honor other authorities in our lives including Older relatives (uncles and aunties etc) Teachers, Pastors, government authorities, bosses at work. This is where we learn relationship with authority. Many times, we think that respect and honor for authority is to be earned, that is not the biblical way. The Bible commands us to pray for the authority. If the authority over you has faults, pray for them but honor and respect them.
This is the only command with a promise. God says if we obey this command our days will be prolonged. He may do it by giving us many days to live or by giving us quality life. Think about the misery we go through when we do not have a good relationship with our parents. Some of us are carrying anger and bitterness. I know of a lady who never attended her mother’s funeral because her mother neglected her when she was a child and was raised by a relative. She never sought to understand the circumstances her mother did so. The fact that she did not attend the funeral says she is still living with anger and bitterness even when her mother is gone.
Parents are God’s representative, they take care of us and teach us different things even if we may not appreciate at times. They work hard even if they are not perfect. Those of you who have the privilege of becoming parents know this very well. Jesus had parents and was raised in a home he obeyed and loved his parents. Joseph his father taught him his trade, he learnt at the feet of his earthly father. When he was dying he left his mother in the care of John his disciple who took her in. let us take the responsibility we have over our parents seriously, by doing so we are teaching our children to look after us as well and to obey God.
- Are you honoring your parents?
- Do they know how grateful you are for all they have done for you?
- Do you spend the time you should with them making sure they know how much you love them?
- Have you forgiven them for the mistakes they have done in life?
- Do you seek their counsel? Do you ask them to share the lessons they learned in life?
Remember that the work of parents is not to make their children happy, but to raise and prepare them to be God fearing, honoring and responsible adults.
Love and honor your father and mother, it pleases God.
Rev. Julius Wainaina