When I was a little girl, I memorized the Scriptures that told children to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.) Now I think more often of the 5th commandment in Deuteronomy: Honor thy father and mother that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. The emphasis for younger children is to “obey” their parents while the focus for adult children is to “honor” their parents.
Recently my mom and step-dad decided to move from Kentucky to Washington State to be closer to me and my family. Since leaving their Kentucky home, several things have happened which have made it hard for them to adjust to a long-distance move. My step-dad was diagnosed with dementia soon after they arrived as well as having a history of heart disease, the latter which has required numerous surgeries and hospitalizations the last 20 years. And my mom, though more able-bodied, is aging quickly and struggling with arthritis and fulltime care-giving.
Now that I live so much more closely to them, I’m struck by the things that makes aging challenging. Roles are often reversed as adult children become the caretakers and fixers and helpers and comforters of parents. People often become more childlike as they grow older. They need help with basic needs, they lose and break things, are unable to do things and require help. They can be fearful and emotional like children. Impulse control lessens and they can strike out like children and say things they wouldn’t otherwise. Challenging, yes!
The Lord knew all this would happen as we are His creation. That’s where the concept of “honoring your parents” becomes so interesting to me. What does this look like? For me, it involves praying daily for wisdom and finding ways to honor them and make them feel loved and respected. It means never belittling their concerns or making light of their struggles. It means responding with patience when I’m interrupted or have to repeat myself or try to hunt for that lost item again or repeat a task with them that has been done many times before. It means loving them no matter what with a Christ-like love, much as they did for me when I was little and needed them.
I love what Charles Wesley said about honoring parents below:
Honor thy father and mother - Hast thou not been irreverent or undutiful to either? Hast thou not slighted their advice? Hast thou cheerfully obeyed all their lawful commands? Hast thou loved and honored their persons? Supplied their wants, and concealed their infirmities? Hast thou wrestled for them with God in prayer?
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