I posted earlier that I have mixed results in my life. I have only one important goal that I have assiduously attended to [in my practical life] and that has been raising my children.
There have been numerous other important focus points, but that is the one I have taken the most responsibility for and the one which I have invested in the most. And when I say “take responsibility for” that speaks for a huge amount of serious obligation; because I am notorious for taking on more than my share of responsibility. Truly. I get lambasted for it all the time. Or else catch flack for when I try to lighten the load…. because one thing that family relationships most resist is a shift in balance of dependence and responsibility.
But anyway, what I was thinking about was that fifth commandment, and whether we have slighted its importance and whether that leads to much family grief… or not.
I came from a dysfunctional family. Not the commonly used term, but the term with actual meaning. Things were way off for several generations that I know of, and there was a certain amount of problem within the application of this fifth commandment ( although, hey, that was certainly not the only one).
This is not very different from lots of people, I know that, but what has thrown the monkey wrench in is the fact that after becoming a Christian who takes faith seriously, I tried to build my house. I didn’t expect many of the rebuilding problems and demolition that have come along. There is a differential between my expectations amd my actual results, so far.
I wonder how much of that is due to the lost understanding of what it means to honor your mother and father.
There is something of it recognizably lost in the culture: the passing off of the elderly onto the social security system and the nursing home environment. It was a system that the past generation set up for themselves… and one that is not working so very well as we go along in time.
Then there is the obvious deterioration of respect one is expected to give parents, and the rise of the youth culture, which also seems somewhat deteriorated. I think maybe I could say that the youth culture was my generation’s bright and shining dream, which has lost some of the burnish and developed some definite rust spots.
These are two things in the culture that have eroded the idea of “honor” of one’s parents. So that the only way I could begin to define what that honor involves is from a negative standpoint: we shouldn’t diminish them and their place.
But other than that, what does it mean to esteem ones parents? In some ways the answers will be individual, but I believe there should be some culturally applicable ideas as well.
It is important on two fronts. One is the humanitarian, which will outline how we deal with parental rights and with the elderly, but the other front is -if there is truth to the promise part of the commandment- the establishment of order and prosperity for our own and coming generations.
I think lots of Christians like to give lip service to the idea of honoring parents, but they subscribe to the cultures view in their actual lives. And this works two ways, the parents sometimes shortcircuit opportunity for proper expression of honor with their own ideas and substitutions, as well as the children shirking their roles.
Like insisting on types of ‘independence’ that undermines the younger generations ability to accomodate the elderly into their lives.
I know this sounds a bit vague, but maybe because I am a bit vague and don’t see how to properly apply the commandment in a modern context.
Jesus addressed this matter in criticising the tradition of “Corban” , so I know it has importance for the Christian, but it isn’t exactly top proiority in the pulpit sermons, or in bible study conversations.
Modern society and life will insist that we must get on with our own lives, and that often means little or no time for those who raised us. And those who raised us sometimes didn’t do the greatest job, or left us with feelings of deprivation of some sort. So sometimes resentment gets in the way of the motivation to do well by them.
But the words form the Bible stand and …as I get on with life…. those words, “that your days may be long in the land which The Lord your God gives you” sound like a pretty good promise to take up. Besides, I become more and more aware of the fact that our view of things can go awry so subtly and so preciptiously. Unless we hold the standard up to measure where we are at, on a reading of something like this “honoring parents’, we can find ourselves without bearings. We just don’t know which way is up… and what is the right thing to do.
Do we need to have our parents approve of our future marriage partner? Do we need to make contact with our parents as often as they’d like? What is too often, what is not often enough? Should we seriously inconvenienvce our lives to take care of elderly parents? What is their part in cooperation? What if not all the children decide it is important to attend to family matters? How much say should grandparents have in the raising of ones children?
There are many times this issue presses buttons, but we don’t seem to have a societal norm, we only have the family traditions to wade through.
I’d like a little more idea of what to expect, I think.