Give Your Parents the Gift of Honor—A Personal Journey
Patricia Chen—Irvine, California, USA
Relationships are filled with both joy and pain. Good relationships can bring us joy, affirmation and the support we need. But what if relationships are not going well? Some of the deepest hurts we will ever know come from those whom we care about most: hurts from bruised relationships within our families. These relationships are the hardest to heal. One of them is the relationship with our parents.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). Honoring our parents—showing respect in word and action, obedience, love, and even praise—is so important that God designated it as one of His Ten Commandments. Honoring them consequently becomes a purpose in life because that is one way to glorify God. But how do we give honor to our parents, especially when the relationship is already bruised?
GOD’S LOVE AS THE MODEL IN YOUR LIFE
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
This commandment takes our responsibility to a whole new level. Our relationship with our parents should be molded not by what we want but by the teaching God provides. God wants His children to honor and respect their parents.
If we are going to live out this command, it is not going to happen accidentally. It is going to take a conscious decision on our part to act toward our parents the way God teaches.
Sometimes, it may seem difficult to love our parents. But we need to make a choice to continue to love, even in the most crushing of circumstances. God will grant us that strength through the power of the Holy Spirit. What we feel is impossible is possible with God (Lk 18:27).
When I was about fourteen, my family went through some major changes. As a result, I argued a lot with my mother. My resentment toward her turned to rebellion. When she wanted me to do something, I would do it grudgingly. It became so bad that I wished she would just disappear. My relationship with her lacked honor, understanding, and warmth.
When I was sixteen, Christ found me—a lost sheep returning to His fold. I discovered how much Jesus loves me. That was the greatest experience I had ever received: knowing that God laid down His life for me—even when I was a sinner.
I began to see clearly that love is not a feeling; it is a choice and a real commitment.
God created us for a full life and He created us to relate to Him and to others. As I grasped the word of God, I realized how the love of God becomes the foundation for all other relationships. Not only did His love give me new strength in my relationship with Him, it began to flow over to every other relationship in my life, including that with my mother.
My love towards my mother had been conditional; it was based on her performance. I had been waiting for her to change. If she changed, I would begin to love her. But, God’s love simply said, “I love you. Period.”
When I was in college, I heard a sermon in which the preacher asked, “If you were to die now, would you have any regrets?” I thought deeply and the answer was “YES!” I would regret that, while in my early teens, I had never asked my mother to forgive me for my unlovely and disgraceful ways.
On a bus ride back to campus one morning, there was a moment where I felt that Jesus was sitting right next to me; I could feel Him seeing my struggles. I remember the emotions that went along with that particular ride. I really struggled. I wanted to do something to change this relationship because every time I went home, the tension was there and I could not see any joy on my mother’s face.
Tears streamed down my face as the reality of this realization touched my heart. For the first time in my life, I wanted to take God at His word. I wanted to make things right. I wanted to love, honor, and accept my mother just as she was.
I was grateful for this new understanding. It seemed as if the Lord had performed surgery on my heart. But, I knew the real test was to come. Not knowing where to begin, I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to make things right with my mother. I knew it would be difficult and that I would not feel like doing it, but I needed to take the first step.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP—HONESTY BEFORE GOD
Most of our struggles or internal hurts are silent. Sometimes, we find that we rehearse them in our mind over and over again. God wants us to talk to Him about everything, “For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (Ps 38:17–18). David prayed and told God about his feelings. At the end of the psalm, his heart was at peace. Perhaps the problem was still there, but David’s heart was refocused and settled.
We, too, need to receive inner peace from God through prayer. We need to pour out our hearts and tell God how we feel saying, “Dear Father, this is what is really hurting me in my relationship with my parents.”
At times, I just wanted to focus on my own inadequacy. Sometimes, I even wanted to erase my feelings by pretending they just didn’t exist. I did not have the power to help myself.
We can go on with life believing that we are truly powerless. But I realized that fighting my weaknesses on my own does not work! Choosing to act upon our faith in God is the only way out.
There is a big difference between honestly telling God our weaknesses and immersing ourselves in feelings of inadequacy. God’s teaching is for us to trust Him so that He can turn our weaknesses into His strength.
“NOT MY WILL, LORD, BUT YOURS BE DONE”
It is indeed difficult to pray the way Jesus prayed: “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Jesus even looked at those who crucified Him and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is a complete picture of God’s love.
To love God with all of our heart, and not just part of our heart, is not easy. Even amid internal struggles, we have to ask God to work in our hearts and pray thus: “… not my will, but Yours be done.”
If our minds are not filled with God’s truth and His love, we will easily drift towards anxious and selfish thoughts. God’s truth will lift us up and redirect our focus to His plan for us. If we want to be right with God, we need to cooperate with God.
It is all too easy to find faults in our parents and in others. If we want our lives to have peace, then we need to turn to our Lord; “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Is 26:3).
Let the word of God capture every fiber of your being. There are times when I don’t want to love but God wants me to act with love anyway. When everything in me tells me to escape or hide, God wants me to stay and pray for the strength from above. When I feel like giving up, God wants me to act in love and in the obedience of God.
A TURN OF EVENTS
I don’t remember how long I prayed to God to change me and redirect my focus. Those prayers had not been easy. They stripped away everything that was not desirable in the eyes of God. God kept reminding me over and over in prayers that to love my mother is to be vulnerable. Don’t refuse to love her; don’t stop loving her—an even deeper hurt will come about if I choose not to reconcile with her. Time spent alone with God definitely strengthened me. It not only quieted my soul but also broadened my understanding about trusting Him.
Trusting God is not something passive. It has to be acted upon when God gives us the right opportunity. I remember praying to God and telling Him that I didn’t have the strength to reconcile with my mother on my own. I needed His wisdom and opportunity.
I understood that in life, there are many things that are inexcusable but nothing is unforgivable. The impossible becomes possible through the power of God.
Then, one day, opportunity came.
A few months later, I went home on a Friday night. I had an attitude of love and acceptance rather than one of being critical and judgmental. As I came home, I behaved gently towards my mother and, in return, she was nice to me. She must have sensed something “different” working in me.
I silently asked God to grant me the opportunity to ask for her forgiveness. It was not an easy thing to talk about as I imagined myself unable to utter a word. But, I had to. I waited until my two other sisters had left the room. I said, “Mom, I have been thinking about when I was fourteen and fifteen, how unloving, ungrateful, and unkind I was. Will you forgive me?”
As she turned and looked at me with love and tears in her eyes, she said words that cut to my very soul: “Yes, I forgive you.” Immediately all the tension drained from my body as a great peace settled over me. I felt the incredible sense of assurance that God was indeed working in this moment.
For the first time, we embraced each other. For the first time, I honored my mother with a new found understanding from God’s word. I gave her respect, love and value. I realized honor is given—we can choose either to give it with the power from God or we can choose to withhold it.
To honor our parents is to recognize their importance and treat them with honor. When we choose to honor our parents, we are choosing to obey God genuinely from the bottom of our heart.
Trusting in God is not just a feeling. I remember when I did not feel like it, God taught me to choose to make things right with my mother. I was so joyful that day. I wondered why I had not done it sooner.
My mother never asked me to forgive her and make things right with her, but God asked that of me and it made all the difference.
WE DON’T HAVE TO FACE PROBLEMS ALONE
Perhaps you have guilt and feel regret about how you have handled your relationship with your parents in the past or even right now. “I wish I had done this. I wish I had said that.” Such regrets may have crossed your mind many times. Bring them to God.
God is a forgiving and loving God. He understands that we sometimes make selfish decisions in our life and He forgives us for that. Bring that to Him in prayers! Don’t carry that guilt and regret.
Maybe you have been hurt by a parent and you’re still holding on to that hurt. Maybe your parents fight all the time, or are separated, or aren’t Christians. You may be tempted to say, “This teaching won’t work for my family.” Not so. All families struggle and have problems. If God’s love only works in perfect homes, what kind of love is that?
But God’s ministry is that of reconciliation and changing lives, even in the most terrible of situations. No matter what your situation is, believe in the power of God’s love. The bitterness that you store inside hurts all of your other relationships, including your relationship with God. If you think it doesn’t affect your relationship with God, you are fooling only yourself (Mk 11:25).
God has already promised us that we are more than conquerors; we don’t have to face the problems alone. God alone has the power. There is no problem so big that He can’t meet our need. More so, God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, He forgives us and cleanses us from our wrongdoings (1 Jn 1:9).
Blessings wait for those who truly follow Christ. God is with us. He will strengthen us and He will not fail us. When you honor your parents, you receive blessings for yourself and share them with your parents. Honoring your parents is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give them and yourself.