I recently asked my parents if they could offer one piece of advice, what they would say to me. My dad, sitting next to me in the passenger seat while we drove home from a family weekend at our cottage, said he needed a few moments to think. A brief time of silent pondering was concluded with these words: “Always think long term.” My mom continued the train of thought with her own words, “Always stay true to your self.”
Great advice. But I’ll admit. The question was loaded. Conversations over the past few months with some close friends have often centered around how to practically live out our Christian faith. It’s a popular topic that sometimes leads to blank faces and dead-ends and other times to deep reflection on how to do so. Our passion for God and having faith is easy to celebrate, but when it comes to the pick-up-and-go application of many of God’s commandments we can often find ourselves to be left in the dust. So, by asking my parents for some timely advice, I was really searching for an answer to another question: What does it mean to honor my parents? Is it is simple asking them for advice, and more importantly, how do I honor them?
Does it mean to follow their every word with blind confidence in their judgment? Does it mean that they’re always right and that I’m just some dumb kid who doesn’t know what he wants? Do they really know what’s best for me?
I love my parents, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always a gung-ho advocate of some of my parents’ choices or perspective or even on the same page regarding some of life’s big decisions. Since the clueless days of my sophomore year at high school there has been constant friction between our ideas of what I should be doing with my life, who I’m hanging out with, what school I’m going to and where I’m working (amongst a triumphant list of other decisions). This friction has resulted in countless arguments, endless tears, passionate yelling matches and the ever-so-dreaded week-long periods where our home has turned into a self-inflicted no-talking zone. Not fun.
Now, in my mid-20s, I’ve come to the conclusion that all our parents want is the best for us. Sounds like a sticky cliché, I know, but it’s true. Unfortunately, definitions of "best" can greatly differ between parent and child and sometimes this can bring out the worst in us. So, I still ask, in those times of friction and confrontation, how do we stick to our guns and still honor our parents with the same breath?
Throughout the Bible, we are continually reminded to honor our parents, outside the well-known Exodus commandment such as in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (6:1-3):
“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (Exodus 20:12). This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on earth’" (Deuteronomy 5:16).
I like this promise of things going well for me. Yet despite knowing that honoring our parents is the right thing to do, it’s far too easy to shun their advice. Too often we convince ourselves that they can’t possibly understand what we’re going through and that they really have no idea what we want or need and that their disciplinary actions, at any age, are disrespectful to us as young adults and individuals. To accept this as truth is to believe in a lie. To accept this as truth is disrespectful. It is dishonorable. It is ultimately sinful.
Keep in mind however, that our parents are not perfect. No matter how confidently we might have believed it at one point during our innocent childhood, we are not the superior offspring of Superman and Wonder Woman. Thankfully, Paul offers some timely advice for us earlier in chapter 4 of his letter in dealing with the imperfections of others:
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 4: 2-3)
We show respect and honor toward our fathers and mothers by being patient with them and understanding they are just like us and don’t necessarily have it all figured out as their demeanor might suggest. Sometimes though, because we trust and love them and feel so comfortable around them, we also feel our innermost emotions surfacing in explosive ways because they just don’t get it.
And you know what? Sometimes they won’t.
But even in those times, nay, especially in those times, we are instructed to be patient. Accept their advice. Be thankful for their advice. Apply their advice. By doing so we honor them.
It’s incredibly difficult, I know. Sometimes I really wonder if my parents know anything when it comes to the petty details. But every time I run to them, they usually floor me with genius perspective.
Ephesians 4 as a whole is a chapter where we learn about unity as a body of believers as well as the body of Christ. We should be striving for this unity as a body of believers but even more so within our immediate and intimate families. To honor our fathers and mothers is to honor Christ, to honor our Lord and Father in Heaven. Furthermore, as it says in Ephesians 6, we should obey because we belong to the Lord, and he has placed our particular set of parents in our lives for a reason.
At times I can’t contain the love I have for my parents. Other times I’m convinced they’re out to destroy me. Driving home that time with my parents, although my question was loaded, I was still given some simple yet profound advice that has certainly influenced some recent life decisions. I’ve realized through the highs and lows that my parents are full of great ideas, opinions, advice and guidance. To obey them with respect is to obey the Lord, and you know what? Quite frankly, that’s enough for me.
Richard is a student, landscaper and writer from Toronto, Canada who has previously traveled the world covering professional snowboard contests for various magazines and websites. He loves old-school Nintendo, swashbuckling adventures and wonders how such an awesome God and can love a dude like him.