Give Your Parents the Gift of Honor—A Personal Journey
Patricia Chen—Irvine, California, USA
Relationships are filled with both
joy and pain. Good relationships can bring us joy, affirmation and the support
we need. But what if relationships are not going well? Some of the deepest
hurts we will ever know come from those whom we care about most: hurts from
bruised relationships within our families. These relationships are the hardest
to heal. One of them is the relationship with our parents.
“Honor your father and your
mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is
giving you” (Ex 20:12). Honoring our parents—showing respect in word and
action, obedience, love, and even praise—is so important that God designated it
as one of His Ten Commandments. Honoring them consequently becomes a purpose in
life because that is one way to glorify God. But how do we give honor to our
parents, especially when the relationship is already bruised?
GOD’S LOVE AS THE MODEL IN YOUR LIFE
A new commandment I give to
you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one
another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for
This commandment takes our
responsibility to a whole new level. Our relationship with our parents should
be molded not by what we want but by the teaching God provides. God wants His
children to honor and respect their parents.
If we are going to live out this
command, it is not going to happen accidentally. It is going to take a
conscious decision on our part to act toward our parents the way God teaches.
Sometimes, it may seem difficult
to love our parents. But we need to make a choice to continue to love, even in
the most crushing of circumstances. God will grant us that strength through the
power of the Holy Spirit. What we feel is impossible is possible with God (Lk
When I was about fourteen, my
family went through some major changes. As a result, I argued a lot with my
mother. My resentment toward her turned to rebellion. When she wanted me to do
something, I would do it grudgingly. It became so bad that I wished she would
just disappear. My relationship with her lacked honor, understanding, and
When I was sixteen, Christ found
me—a lost sheep returning to His fold. I discovered how much Jesus loves me.
That was the greatest experience I had ever received: knowing that God laid
down His life for me—even when I was a sinner.
I began to see clearly that love
is not a feeling; it is a choice and a real commitment.
God created us for a full life and
He created us to relate to Him and to others. As I grasped the word of God, I
realized how the love of God becomes the foundation for all other
relationships. Not only did His love give me new strength in my relationship
with Him, it began to flow over to every other relationship in my life,
including that with my mother.
My love towards my mother had been
conditional; it was based on her performance. I had been waiting for her to
change. If she changed, I would begin to love her. But, God’s love simply said,
“I love you. Period.”
When I was in college, I heard a
sermon in which the preacher asked, “If you were to die now, would you have any
regrets?” I thought deeply and the answer was “YES!” I would regret that, while
in my early teens, I had never asked my mother to forgive me for my unlovely
and disgraceful ways.
On a bus ride back to campus one
morning, there was a moment where I felt that Jesus was sitting right next to
me; I could feel Him seeing my struggles. I remember the emotions that went
along with that particular ride. I really struggled. I wanted to do something
to change this relationship because every time I went home, the tension was
there and I could not see any joy on my mother’s face.
Tears streamed down my face as the
reality of this realization touched my heart. For the first time in my life, I
wanted to take God at His word. I wanted to make things right. I wanted to
love, honor, and accept my mother just as she was.
I was grateful for this new
understanding. It seemed as if the Lord had performed surgery on my heart. But,
I knew the real test was to come. Not knowing where to begin, I prayed that God
would give me an opportunity to make things right with my mother. I knew it
would be difficult and that I would not feel like doing it, but I needed to
take the first step.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP—HONESTY BEFORE GOD
Most of our struggles or internal
hurts are silent. Sometimes, we find that we rehearse them in our mind over and
over again. God wants us to talk to Him about everything, “For I am ready to
fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I
will be in anguish over my sin” (Ps 38:17–18). David prayed and told God about
his feelings. At the end of the psalm, his heart was at peace. Perhaps the
problem was still there, but David’s heart was refocused and settled.
We, too, need to receive inner
peace from God through prayer. We need to pour out our hearts and tell God how
we feel saying, “Dear Father, this is what is really hurting me in my
relationship with my parents.”
At times, I just wanted to focus
on my own inadequacy. Sometimes, I even wanted to erase my feelings by
pretending they just didn’t exist. I did not have the power to help myself.
We can go on with life believing
that we are truly powerless. But I realized that fighting my weaknesses on my
own does not work! Choosing to act upon our faith in God is the only way out.
There is a big difference between
honestly telling God our weaknesses and immersing ourselves in feelings of
inadequacy. God’s teaching is for us to trust Him so that He can turn our
weaknesses into His strength.
“NOT MY WILL, LORD, BUT YOURS BE DONE”
It is indeed difficult to pray the
way Jesus prayed: “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Jesus even
looked at those who crucified Him and said, “Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do.” This is a complete picture of God’s love.
To love God with all of our heart,
and not just part of our heart, is not easy.
Even amid internal struggles, we have to ask God to work in our hearts and pray
thus: “… not my will, but Yours be done.”
If our minds are not filled with
God’s truth and His love, we will easily drift towards anxious and selfish
thoughts. God’s truth will lift us up and redirect our focus to His plan for
us. If we want to be right with God, we need to cooperate with God.
It is all too easy to find faults
in our parents and in others. If we want our lives to have peace, then we need
to turn to our Lord; “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed
on You, because he trusts in You” (Is 26:3).
Let the word of God capture every
fiber of your being. There are times when I don’t want to love but God wants me
to act with love anyway. When everything in me tells me to escape or hide, God
wants me to stay and pray for the strength from above. When I feel like giving
up, God wants me to act in love and in the obedience of God.
A TURN OF EVENTS
I don’t remember how long I prayed
to God to change me and redirect my focus. Those prayers had not been easy.
They stripped away everything that was not desirable in the eyes of God. God
kept reminding me over and over in prayers that to love my mother is to be
vulnerable. Don’t refuse to love her; don’t stop loving her—an even deeper hurt
will come about if I choose not to reconcile with her. Time spent alone with
God definitely strengthened me. It not only quieted my soul but also broadened
my understanding about trusting Him.
Trusting God is not something passive.
It has to be acted upon when God gives us the right opportunity. I remember
praying to God and telling Him that I didn’t have the strength to reconcile
with my mother on my own. I needed His wisdom and opportunity.
I understood that in life, there
are many things that are inexcusable but nothing is unforgivable. The
impossible becomes possible through the power of God.
Then, one day, opportunity came.
A few months later, I went home on
a Friday night. I had an attitude of love and acceptance rather than one of
being critical and judgmental. As I came home, I behaved gently towards my
mother and, in return, she was nice to me. She must have sensed something
“different” working in me.
I silently asked God to grant me
the opportunity to ask for her forgiveness. It was not an easy thing to talk
about as I imagined myself unable to utter a word. But, I had to. I waited
until my two other sisters had left the room. I said, “Mom, I have been
thinking about when I was fourteen and fifteen, how unloving, ungrateful, and
unkind I was. Will you forgive me?”
As she turned and looked at me
with love and tears in her eyes, she said words that cut to my very soul: “Yes,
I forgive you.” Immediately all the tension drained from my body as a great
peace settled over me. I felt the incredible sense of assurance that God was
indeed working in this moment.
For the first time, we embraced
each other. For the first time, I honored my mother with a new found
understanding from God’s word. I gave her respect, love and value. I realized
honor is given—we can choose either to give it with the power from God or we
can choose to withhold it.
To honor our parents is to
recognize their importance and treat them with honor. When we choose to honor
our parents, we are choosing to obey God genuinely from the bottom of our
Trusting in God is not just a
feeling. I remember when I did not feel like it, God taught me to choose to
make things right with my mother. I was so joyful that day. I wondered why I
had not done it sooner.
My mother never asked me to
forgive her and make things right with her, but God asked that of me and it
made all the difference.
WE DON’T HAVE TO FACE PROBLEMS ALONE
Perhaps you have guilt and feel
regret about how you have handled your relationship with your parents in the
past or even right now. “I wish I had done this. I wish I had said that.” Such
regrets may have crossed your mind many times. Bring them to God.
God is a forgiving and loving God.
He understands that we sometimes make selfish decisions in our life and He
forgives us for that. Bring that to Him in prayers! Don’t carry that guilt and
Maybe you have been hurt by a
parent and you’re still holding on to that hurt. Maybe your parents fight all
the time, or are separated, or aren’t Christians. You may be tempted to say,
“This teaching won’t work for my family.” Not so. All families struggle and
have problems. If God’s love only works in perfect homes, what kind of love is
But God’s ministry is that of
reconciliation and changing lives, even in the most terrible of situations. No
matter what your situation is, believe in the power of God’s love. The
bitterness that you store inside hurts all of your other relationships,
including your relationship with God. If you think it doesn’t affect your
relationship with God, you are fooling only yourself (Mk 11:25).
God has already promised us that
we are more than conquerors; we don’t have to face the problems alone. God
alone has the power. There is no problem so big that He can’t meet our need.
More so, God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, He forgives us
and cleanses us from our wrongdoings (1 Jn 1:9).
Blessings wait for those who truly
follow Christ. God is with us. He will strengthen us and He will not fail us.
When you honor your parents, you receive blessings for yourself and share them
with your parents. Honoring your parents is truly one of the greatest gifts you
can give them and yourself.