Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and your mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I’m a Dad. As I write, I’m on vacation with my adult children, enjoying their company, spending time together over meals and explorations and beach time. It’s different than when they were little – more complicated in many ways. “Obey” is no longer the operative verb, but “honour” continues. As I experience it in its many forms, I am thankful – truly blessed.
I’m also a son, with an elderly mother, and in-laws at the same stage, whose needs have changed since the days when we were all a lot younger. But the instruction to “honour”continues for me, as for my own children.
What does that look like for those of us who are adult children? (I’m assuming those of the younger variety aren’t reading this post!) Here are some beginning thoughts, very basic and obvious, to which you can add your own reflections:
· Spending time. One of life’s most precious resources is time. How I spend it says much about what I value. Spending it on my parents expresses honour.
· Communicating. Whether face to face or via phone, Facetime, email, letters or social media, regular back-and-forth communication is primary. Listening well, hearing the current challenges of life, both joys and struggles, is certainly a part. But also sharing my own story – what’s currently filling my time, how the kids are doing, my own joys and struggles, my plans for the future – all of this is the ongoing stuff of communication. When Mom prompts me by saying, “What about you?”, I realize again that sharing my own life doesn’t come as naturally for me as simply listening. But sharing is a huge part of “honour.”
· Caring practically. It looks different at each stage along the way, but it means seeing that the mundane basics of life are covered. For some living close by, it will be hands-on. For others, living further away, it will mean active engagement, making sure needs are met, supporting in every way possible, but from a distance.
· Praying. Here’s one of the best ways to honour – to pray for parents consistently, bearing them up before the Lord and bearing their burdens. Often, the scriptures will help cover the territory well, taking a passage like Col. 1:9-12 and praying it into each life, watching for the Lord to do his work.
But Paul also gives instruction here for parents, specifically fathers. I’m a Dad – the role continues. I watched it with my own father, recently passed away, who continued to bear our burdens and share much wisdom, plus loving us well, right till the end. For my own part, I realize the instruction not to exasperate my children continues even now – I’ve given them freedom as adults, so now I try to balance several elements: modelling my own devotion to the Lord, giving input where appropriate, yet not being pushy and demanding, all the while seeking to let my kids know my ongoing love.
Fathers (and mothers, too) with younger children have the challenge of training up their children in obedience, while not riding them with unreasonable demands (a sure recipe for exasperation).
From both sides, all the way along, through the whole of life, there is a desperate need for wisdom that is completely beyond us – indeed, wisdom that only the Lord can give.
How good. It’s another perfect context to cause us to keep eyes on him.
O Lord, give me your wisdom in both parenting and honouring. At each step along the journey, help me to keep eyes on you. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: If your parents are living, how can you best honour them over this next week? If you have children, what specific lesson do you take from this short passage?