In about 5 days most Americans will make a special effort to express their profound love, appreciation and affection to their Mother’s who, in most cases, were the single most influential person in their lives for at least the first 18 years of existence, if not much longer. (Thankfully, there’s a day coming for the Father’s as well when similar emotions might be expressed!)
Honoring our parents is not just a greeting card company idea, rather it’s God’s idea and it’s stated very clearly in the Ten Commandments, being squarely in the middle as the number five commandment: “Honor your father and mother….”
In most other scriptural references, honoring is directly tied with reference to obeying our parents because God has established them as the primary authorities in our formative years of life and beyond. They are worthy of our honor simply by virtue of the position that God has given them in our lives.
We had an experience two weekends ago,even though my Dad has been with the Lord for 20 years and my Mom for 5 as of this writing, that I wanted to share as an encouragement to others who might be wondering what ways they could remember and appropriately honor our parents .
My brother came up with this significant idea. A couple months ago he contacted my sister and me with the hope that we might be able to gather together with our spouses simply to spend a little time remembering our parents and thanking God specifically for the ways that they gave of themselves to allow us to get established in our own personal life journeys.
We agreed that it would be wise for us to each include our sons and daughters, so that meant there would be potentially 14 additional young adults in our family gathering.
As things turned out, not all of the children were able to come for very good and understandable reasons; but we also included our three oldest grandchildren and my Mom’s beloved niece who lives in Southern California but became very close to my Mom over the 15-20 years prior to her passing on to glory.
The idea was pretty simple. We would gather together for a relaxed evening of being together, sharing a large number of family photos and videos that captured just some of the important moments of our lives, and then a pretty large table full of other expressions of our family life, treasures that represented experiences that helped to shape our personalities, our affections and even our destinies.
To be candid, I wasn’t sure how this would all work out, but God clearly had His hand on this entire event. We found a very appropriate meeting space at one of the local hotels and made plans for a nice but not extravagant meal, had a very large TV monitor that displayed the digital photographs and a couple of other places where people could sit in pairs or small groups to chat before or after the more planned part of the evening.
Without even working at it we came up with about 150 pictures that all had some meaning to us. We broke it up so that the first 100 photos, which had more family members involved in them, was on a continual loop and then the other 50 became part of a brief “presentation” where my sister narrated each photo to set the context and call to mind what was going on in my parents lives at the time that particular photo was taken. (These 50 were all in chronological order.)
Following that my brother and I each shared briefly and a few other comments were made along the way about certain qualities of our Mom and Dad that had greatly influenced us even when we were not aware of how significant those decisions turned out to be.
I call to mind two things that I know my parents imparted into my life that helped to shape me forever.
The first was the love for our family and the unique and irreplaceable value of those relationships. Our “family tradition” was to take the drive from the very, almost rural, community of Beaver, PA, into the city of Pittsburgh where both my Mother’s Mom and my Father’s parents lived. We would visit both households separately for at least a couple of hours each.
That weekly experience was not optional. We knew not to plan things with our friends or to do activities that would conflict with our family time. It’s just what we did and we learned to do it with a good attitude or we would find that there were consequences that we didn’t want to have to pay.
However, participating in that expression of love and appreciation helped me to recognize that it was incumbent on the children to reach out to their parents and to provide however they could for them and at the very least to be a source of love and support as their parents aged.
The second incredibly significant contribution of my parents was the fact that week by week we would attend church together and then after the ride in to Pittsburgh to visit our Grandparents the ride home to Beaver would always start around 7:00 p.m. when Billy Graham was having his national weekly radio broadcast. I know I must have listened to a couple hundred or more of Dr. Graham’s messages as we took the 50-55 minute journey back to our little town of Beaver every week.
There’s so much more that I could share that may be more dramatic than these two things, but the point is that as the three of us shared our perception of our parents role in our lives it filled us with thanksgiving and a sense of understanding that we are the people that we have become in some significant measure because of our parents investment in us.
I have to say that it was also a wonderful time for our own children to give some thought to what they want their kids to be and so on.
There are probably a million other ways that you might think of to honor your parents and recognize them as the conduit of God’s love and leading in our lives. What is really fascinating is that this occurred some 20 years after my Father passed on to heaven and 5 years since my Mom’s passing. Even so, the practice of calling these things to mind still had a significant impact on all of us.
And so, I’ll submit this idea to all of you and you can certainly prayerfully listen to the Lord and discover your own ways to bring appropriate honor to your parents. In so doing, remember that you are fulfilling one of God’s great commandments for our lives and you’re also cultivating a culture that may define the substance and spirit of your family dynamics throughout your entire lifetimes.
What a blessing!