Our parents are not perfect people who have loved us perfectly throughout our lives. What we receive from our parents is usually a combination of love for their children and an expression of their faults as well—that defines a good parent. Not so great parents may abuse or mistreat their children, they may be alcoholics or addicts and unable to love at all. Bad parents may be causing traumatic injury to their kids through unrelenting abuse or violence.
Whatever our parents were like and whatever they visited on us while we were being raised by them, we almost always have things to forgive them for and to heal within ourselves. I know this from my own life. My parents were good people, attended church every Sunday of their lives, but they left me not really feeling their love. It was more obvious to me with my mother. I never thought that she got who I was growing up or as an adult. I was raised in a hell-fire-and-damnation church in Louisville KY. In my forties I was explaining to Mom how badly that church had hurt me, how God became a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. Her reaction: “I can’t believe that you took it that way!”
Fortunately, the Lord saw the need for intervention here. A few years later I heard Him say clearly in my mind: “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” Oh, I tried for two years to change my attitude towards her, but I’m afraid I was still the rebellious teenager with her. After my husband and I spent a weekend with her the three of us were standing on the railroad platform in Wilmington DE waiting for our train to take us north, when we were surrounded by a cloud of love. That was my experience of it. All along that train ride, all I could think was that God took my rebellion and made it into love!!! And everything changed from then on. I was able to love my mother as she was. And she was grateful for every single thing that I did for her.
As for my Dad, it took many more years before I began to see him clearly in light of that early church. My Dad was a tease and I learned to check out his eyes when he was telling me something to see if there was a twinkle in them that said that what he was saying wasn’t true, but just a joke. But it took me until just this year to see the connection between that first church and the type of punishment I got if I did anything wrong. If I did something wrong, I would have to wait until he came home from work to get a paddling from his wooden fraternity paddle. And that confirmed what a man who had worked with him for years told me about the employees under him expecting tough response for anything they did wrong.
Our parents, imperfect people that they were, still deserve our forgiveness and love, our compassion and mercy. For they are the parents that God assigned to us, who would, however well or poorly, raise us, and launch us into our adult lives. And they would also be one of the big issues in our adult lives to raise up to our God for healing and for forgiveness.
We must always remember that the fifth commandment calls us to love our parents as part of our loving God. We must forgive them, allow them to be the imperfect people that they were, just like we are imperfect. It’s also part and parcel of loving others as we love ourselves as Jesus defined loving God (Matthew 22:39).
Questions to ponder over the week: What were your parents like when they were raising you? What difficult or traumatic memories do you have of them? Have you forgiven them for what they did or failed to do to you? Have you asked the Lord’s help in forgiving them and in healing you of all harm?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who forgive our parents any wrong they may have done to us. May we love and forgive them, as we are healed of any difficulty.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.com.
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