I wrote last week about some takeaways from a book I had recently read. One of which spoke to the parenting of those of us who call ourselves Christians. An excerpt from that post is below:
"A new thing is happening in the Christian Church in America. Young people who see the worth in following Jesus are fighting resentment toward parents who lived lukewarm lives. Parents who idolized their kids and expected praise in return are receiving the opposite. These young adults are falling in love with Jesus, despite the example of their parents. And some even try to respectfully rebuke their parents."
Over the last seven days, I've had some interesting and troubling conversations based off of this post. And first off, let me say that this is a real issue. And further, when handled the right way, it can be a step of growth in the family relationship. As mentioned above, a respectful rebuke is a good thing. However, based on over twenty years in ministry and, unfortunately, how I've treated my own parents at times, I can say that many times these situations are not handled well and respect gets trampled in emotion and misunderstanding.
Of course, it takes two to tango and relationships do not happen in a vacuum. So let me be clear, I'm writing this directly to you young adults who have found a vital relationship with Jesus, yet find yourself frustrated with the fact that your parents might not share your zeal for Christ. Further, maybe they taught you to fear God and follow Jesus, but never displayed the passion that you now feel for Him. Whether that's true is up for debate in each individual situation, but no matter the reality, you (young zealous follower of Christ) may need to rethink how you go about relating to your parents. I want to give you three reasons why.
Reason #1 - They did the best they could
Do you know who Liz Murray is? Liz and her sister grew up in NYC with two parents who were hopelessly addicted to drugs. Both parents eventually contracted AIDS and passed away by the time Liz was a teenager. By age 15, she was a homeless high school student. He story of climbing out of that situation is wonderful, but I want to share something I heard her say in a leadership talk many years ago. It has affected me more deeply than most of the "good" talks I've heard over the years.
Someone asked Liz how she was able to forgive and release her parents' shortfalls when it came to caring for her and her sister. She answered with a story that blew me away. She was about twelve years old and it had been a whole day since she and her sister had eaten. She knew that her parents had spent the family's food money on drugs - again - and she was angry. She decided she was going to go to her dad and tell him just what she thought of him. Her dad was sitting in a ratty old chair in their tiny apartment, and as she approached him, she first noticed his shoes. They were so old and worn out that they were more duct tape than actual shoes. She then looked at her dad and noticed how skinny and tired he looked. Then the realization hit her. She and her sister had not eaten in a day, but her dad had probably not eaten in three! Now, it's easy to say, she goes on, that he allowed his drug habit to control him and the family. That's true. But here's what Liz's twelve-year-old mind came to that most of us miss, even well into our 30's and beyond. He did the best he could. He could not give her what he did not have to give. Should he have broken his addiction, gotten a job and taken care of the family he was responsible for? Absolutely yes. But he couldn't. He was sick. He was unable to make himself well. He did the best he could. That realization allowed a twelve-year-old girl to forgive and release her parents for bringing she and her sister up in deplorable conditions!
Can that realization allow you to forgive and release your parents for doing much less to you? Maybe they should have done this or that better. Maybe they still should. The reality is, they did the best they could. They could not have given you what they didn't have to give. You camping out on the fact that they should have been better or done better only drives the wedge in deeper. You're an adult now. Let it go.
Reason #2 - You owe them
If you are a parent, this is probably a no-brainer for you. You get the incredible sacrifice you make on a daily basis just to keep your kids alive, much less thrive. But if you're not a parent yet, let me respectfully say that you have absolutely no idea what it means to be a parent. Please don't fall into the trap of judging your parents through a filter of what you think you would have done. The hard truth of it is that you have no idea what you would have done in their situation.
Honor and loyalty are little-valued virtues in our day. I want to suggest that your parents deserve both. Yes, you owe it to them because they made sacrifices beyond what you can yet imagine. And even if you feel like they could have or should have done better, please remember that they did the best they could. They could not have given what they did not have to give.
Reason #3 - You're commanded to
You're the one convinced of your own deep love for Jesus. Have you read Exodus 20:12 or Ephesians 6:2? Biblical commands don't get much clearer than this. Put your money where your mouth is. Swallow your pride. You're not as holy as you think.
Forgive your parents. Call them. Apologize. Set a new course.