Honor your father and your mother . . . (Exodus 20:12)
“I’ll never do what you do.”
As best I can recall those were my exact words. I made this announcement to my Dad – a pastor. He was driving the car and I was seated in the passenger seat. I think I was seventeen at the time.
Whenever I tell this story (and I’ve told it several times) I try to make it clear that my words were not spoken to dishonor him. I was not angry. The statement was not meant to be a form of rebellion. I was simply sharing with my Dad that I didn’t want to be a pastor. My reason was simple: I didn’t like moving. We had made several moves in my childhood, all connected to Dad’s ministry. In my mind, to be a pastor was to move. I didn’t want to do that.
These days my passenger seat declaration sounds laughable. What I announced I would not do, I now do. Furthermore, the life of ministry that seemed so unpleasant to me at seventeen is now something for which I am thankful.
I am thankful for the two voices that shaped faith in me. Of course, there were many voices along the way, but the two primary voices were those of my parents. My mother’s soprano voice sang the faith. I heard her voice singing next to me in the pew. I saw her in the choir. I heard her solo voice from time to time and knew my mom had the best voice in the church.
My Dad’s baritone voice preached the faith from the pulpit. He took the Bible seriously and preached with the zeal of an evangelist (and still does). And he told some pretty good jokes. I honestly can’t recall the content of specific sermons (or jokes), but I am thankful that my first pastor was my dad.
In their book The Truth about God, William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas point out that the command to honor parents is directed at adults. Maybe it takes us that long to truly learn to honor our parents. We gain insight and come to understand things as adults that we could not fully grasp when we were younger. Honor is a learned behavior.
We spend a lifetime learning to honor our parents because gratitude is at the heart of honor.
While the geography of my life changed from time to time, the songs and stories of faith were constant. I couldn’t fully appreciate that when I was seventeen. What have you come to appreciate or understand about your parents that you simply couldn’t grasp when you were younger?
Whatever it is, why not tell them? Gratitude is at the heart of honor.
Merciful God, from the moment of our birth we live by grace. Give us thankful hearts for the grace that came to us through our parents. Teach us what it means to honor them, returning grace to those through whom we first received it. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.