6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
If you're a parent like me, the commandment referenced in today's reading, may be your you all-time favorite, especially if your children are teens. What's not to love about a commandment that tells our children to honor and obey us? And it doesn't stop there, it even extends a reward to those who comply that doesn't cost us us a thing. That's what we call a "win-win!" In our delight, however, we may overlook that this commandment doesn't just apply to children under the age of eighteen--it applies to children of all ages! If you're blessed to have at least one living parent, as I am, God still wants us to honor them. Honoring your parents as an adult will, no doubt, look different than honoring them as a child, but honor we must. For minor-children, honoring parents may be primarily about actions. For adult-children, honoring parents may be mostly about attitude.
Let's consider some attitudes that are honoring toward parents. First, an attitude of gratitude is a great place to begin. Even imperfect parents are deserving of our gratitude. Our parents may have gotten many things wrong over the years, but surely they got some things right and you're living proof. Make it a practice to focus on the valuable lessons taught, the love shown, and the provisions that enriched your life. Looking at people through a lens of gratitude can eclipse remnants of resentment.
A second honoring attitude is empathy. The effort we make to put ourselves in someone else's shoes goes a long way to bridge any relationship gap and create warmth. Before getting frustrated with your parents for not taking advantage of today's technology that could make life easier, consider how successful you've been changing your habits after 50, 30, or even just 20 years. Try expressing something like, "I know it's hard to change. I've been trying to learn a new system at work (or whatever) and it feels so foreign, like I'll never master it." You may be surprised to find that your empathy leads to their willingness to try that new banking app,
Third, maintaining an attitude of respect toward parents is a wonderful way to honor them. Respect may look like not treating them like children, even when they are in decline. Or it may look like helping them stay in their home if it's possible. When I was caring for my mom in her final week of life, there was a day when I contemplated sending her to the hospital despite her wish to remain at home. I was emotionally and physically exhausted and I couldn't see the finish line. Thankfully, a wise and compassionate doctor saw more strength in me than I saw in myself, and counseled me to respect my mom's wishes and maintain her dignity to the end. It turned out that the finish line was only 2 days away from that conversation. I have looked back on that day many times and been so grateful for that advice.
This is just the beginning of ways we adult-children can honor our parents. Ask God to show you what things you can do, or even avoid doing, to honor your parents specifically. Not only will God be watching and ready to bless us, it's likely that our children will be too. In time, we will be glad we modeled before them how to honor their father and mother.
Lord, in the busyness of our lives with children in our homes, or managing our careers, help us to remember and find time to honor our parents by showing gratitude, empathy, and respect. Bring to our minds today, specific things we might do to bless and encourage them. I know we honor you, when we honor them.