Can We Honor and Parent Our Parents?

by Kathy Howard

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:2 NIV

My father was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection and sepsis. Due to my mother’s worsening dementia, she could not stay alone. Each day we drove to the hospital to spend the bulk of the day with Dad, and then I took her home for the night.

During the drive one morning, I saw Mom rummaging in her purse in my peripheral vision. At a stoplight I glanced over in time to see her touch a mascara wand to her lips.

“What ‘cha doin’ Mom?” I asked casually.

“I need a little color on my lips,” was her reply.

Seriously, what do you do with this? I could let her walk into the hospital with black lips, setting her up for possible embarrassment. I could stop her with a quick rebuke. Or I could ask God to help me do the right thing, the right way. I quickly asked God for wisdom and words.

“Mom, I’ve got some lipstick in my purse that would look great on you. Want to try it?”

Mom dropped the mascara in her purse and used my lipstick. Her feelings were spared and she was satisfied. I’d like to tell you every encounter is similar, but sadly it’s not. Too often I react from my own resources instead of God’s.

As our parents age, as illness takes its toll, they increasingly require more help. It may require financial guidance, help at home, emotional support, or even constant health care. Whatever your particular situation, as the parent becomes more like a child in many ways, the child must take on the parenting role.

Although the specific circumstances will look different for each family, God’s Word leaves no doubt – caring for our parents is our God-given responsibility. When God gave the people His Law in the desert, one of the first ten commandments was to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exodus 20: 12 NASB). Doing this pleases God and should be a natural result of our relationship with Him. But is it possible to both care for and honor our parents at the same time?

Honor means to hold in esteem, or place value on someone or something. God wants us to respond to our parents as people of worth and to treat them in ways that best meets their needs. Whatever care they may require, we can do it in a way that demonstrates our value for them, treating them always with kindness and respect.

I’ve learned – the hard way – that so much depends on my attitude and tone. If my heart isn’t right with God, if I’m in the middle of a pity party, or if I’m all wrapped up in self, I end up doing exactly what Paul warned Timothy against: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father” (1 Timothy 5:1 NIV).

More than once I’ve caught myself trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. Impatience, selfishness, and frustration can easily foster harsh words. The end result isn’t all that matters. The words and actions we use to get there should comfort, encourage, console, and strengthen our parents.

Honoring our parents while caring for them is definitely not child’s play. But it pleases God and He stands by ready to supply everything we need to do the right thing, the right way.

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Join the conversation: Think about some of your recent interactions with your parent. In what ways, if any, could you have improved on the outcome?

The Wrong Kind of Love

by Jennifer Slattery

It brings out the ugly in me. It makes me fight to be right, to demand that I elevate myself and seek accolades and admiration that feed my pride but often starve my soul. It causes me to avoid difficult conversations and engage in those I shouldn’t. But worst of all, it distorts Christ in me.

You might be surprised that love is actually the root of this nasty, unity-destroying behavior. But not the biblical kind of love.

Self-love.

1 Corinthians 8: 1 says, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (NIV) Knowledge, when lacking love puffs us up, like a puffer fish with its cheeks swelled and spikes protruding—demanding we elevate ourselves at the expense of others. But love, agape love, the kind that flows from God, doesn’t focus on self at all.

About ten years ago, I began to ask some hard questions regarding my faith and the credibility of the Bible. I wanted to know—was Jonah really swallowed by a whale? Was there really a worldwide flood? Did Lot’s wife really turn into a pillar of salt?

Those questions led to an in-depth study I soon wanted to share with others. My motive to teach stemmed from my love for God and His Word. Each week, I’d meet with a group of women while volunteers taught our little ones arts and crafts. The discussions and interactions between the group members were beautiful.

But then “Sue” arrived. Right away she began to challenge my teaching. As I reacted to her confrontational behavior, it wasn’t long before I was more concerned with saving face than keeping the group’s focus on God. It became all about winning the argument. It wasn’t long before the pleasant, Christ-centered discussion among a handful of moms had turned into a tense battle over words.

Pride (self-love) pulled me in when I should’ve walked away. My lapse in judgment allowed the woman to dominate and divert the focus of the conversation. I had veered away from the selfless love that comes from Christ.

At other times I’ve erred in the opposite direction, like when I watched a young lady become enslaved in legalism and drift away from Christ while I remained silent.

I had numerous opportunities to speak to her, but did not, in fear that she would become angry and our relationship would crumble. Once again, I acted in self-protection. It was just another side to self-love. She’s since abandoned the faith entirely.

Truth and love are intertwined.

How do we know when we have crossed over into the dangerous motivation of self-love? We do a heart check, asking God to cleanse us from anything within that could get in the way of kindly speaking truth or responding to someone in anything less than the love of Christ. When we seek, He will be faithful to show us when bad motivations eclipse those that reflect agape love: the pure, self-less love of Christ.

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 5:1

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who addresses women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog. Jennifer has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: When has ugly self-love reared its ugly head in you?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash