Thursday, June 04, 2015

Fathers Day

Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. ~Exodus 20:12

Did you ever notice how there are no conditions tagged on to this, such as "if they deserve it."  Fathers' Day is difficult for a lot of people (as is Mothers' Day for some) because they feel their parent did not measure up in some way or abused them.  Bad parenting and abuse existed when the Israelites were roaming the desert and it still exists today.  It is sad, but it is true.  God was aware of it when he decided to making honoring our parents a commandment then, and He is aware of it today.  God is not asleep, nor is He on vacation. Honoring someone who has mistreated you or harmed you (or someone you love) is difficult at best, but harboring feelings of ill will towards a parent throughout your life is even harder.  God doesn't ask us to whitewash our problems or lie about our parents, acting as if everything is wonderful.  He wants us to bring the things that weigh heavily upon us to Him and seek His counsel in order to be free.

I loved my father, but I didn't always like him.  I hesitate to post anything about my dad because I do not wish to dishonor him, but I don't want my readers to think that my dad was perfect because he was not.  Below is an excerpt from a journal of mine as an adult:

Oct. 11, 2000....The main thing on my mind is my dad.  He has terminal liver cancer.  My feelings have been very confused.  At times I have even been angry with him for choices he has made that may have led to this (my father drank....a lot)  I have also had a great sense of loss of childhood almost.  I wish that my dad and I had been close.  I wish we had done fun things together.  I wish he hadn't yelled so much or called me names.  I wish he would have allowed me to be an individual with a mind of my own.  I wish he had been more godly - a strong, but gentle spiritual leader.  I wish he had been man enough to tell me that he loved me.  I wish he had treated me like a lady.  I wish he had respected my privacy.  I wish he had protected me from certain young men.  I wish he had practiced what he preached.  I wish I didn't feel like hiding from him.  I wish I weren't so much like him.... 

We all, from time to time, have at best very ambiguous feelings towards a parent, but our obedience to God is never contingent upon someone else's behavior.  We are responsible before God for our behavior and no one else's.  So how would honoring someone who doesn't deserve it look? 

First, realize that most parents really didn't want to make a mess of the live of their children.  We can only build with the tools we are given and some of us are better equipped than others.  My father, for example, was treated very cruelly as a child.  Those patterns, in small ways, were carried over into his own parenting style because those were the tools he had been given by his parents.  Did my father love & respect his parents?  You better believe it!  They were most likely doing the best they knew how as well.  While bad parenting that you received doesn't excuse the bad parenting you are now modeling, it does shed light on it so that you can know better where and how to correct it in your own life. 

Second, realize that God is not asking you to make that parent your new best pal or to blindly follow any advice or instruction that clearly goes against God's Word.  He asks us to respect their position and to honor them.  For some of us, honoring our parents will simply mean that we stop bashing him or her all over social matter how much we feel they deserve it.  That never solves anything.   Seek to understand and work through ill or ambiguous feelings towards your parent so that you both can move forward instead of stewing in your juices of anger or resentment.  As much as it lies within you, extend to them the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you desire.

Third, if you are able to only honor your parent in this one way, do this: pray for them!  Pray for their spiritual state and pray for your attitude toward them. Pray for healing.  We all need it. 

My dad was taken from us in 2006 and I miss him terribly at times.  Fortunately, I worked through my feelings before he died and I was able to let go.  For those who are still harboring resentment or ambiguity towards a parent, work through it before it's too late.  Carrying that baggage only weighs more heavily with the passing of time....

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