We live in an increasingly fractured society. We have broken relationships with our parents, with our children, with our friends, and with our spouses. If we aren’t intentional we can find ourselves losing relationships with the ones we love the most.
Have you ever been playing a game and what was at stake in the game increased when someone said, “This time we’re playing for keeps.” That means things just got real. If its a game of marbles, you could lose them. If its a drag race and you lose, you could lose your car.
It is all too common for me to adopt the world’s practice of fractured relationships. What is uncommon is having a commitment to build healthy relationships that last.
Instead of playing to lose with our relationships we need to start “Playing for Keeps.” We can discover together from the Bible “How to Build Healthy Relationships that Last.”
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
One of the very first relationships that we have is with our parents. It makes sense that when God gives his people the ten commandments the first command in regards to how they were to treat each other begins with their parents.
The first four commands teach us how to honor God. The next six teach us how to honor each other. God is saying to his people, “First honor me, then honor people, beginning with the family that was given to you.”
Honor builds healthy relationships that last.
God through out his word makes it clear what his love chain looks like. Love Me (God), love your family (honor your parents), love the church (the household of God) and love others (your neighbor) as you love yourself. Each movement is an opportunity to hone your ability to demonstrate love and respect people.
The devotion that you give God has an impact on the type of love that you extend to others. In the same vein choosing not to honor your parents can have a negative influence in how you choose to treat everyone else. There are many variations of a common saying that goes like this, “You can always tell how a man will treat his wife by the way he treats his mother.” Or, “How you treat your mother is how you will treat your wife.”
“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22 (NIV)
Why would God’s word need to tell me not to despise my mother when she is old?
As your parents’ ages increase their independency decreases. As their independency decreases your responsibility to care for them increases. This relationship dynamic can be a strain on a healthy parent/child relationship. It can be devastating to an already strained relationship.
My dad was always old. Seriously. He was 63 years old when I was born. He was much older than my mother – by 28 years. They had a wonderful marriage that lasted 35 years. The things that I experienced with an aging parent I experienced early. You may be experiencing these things now.
Their minds and bodies are weakening. They have less stamina and dexterity. They are becoming forgetful. As they begin to weaken their worries and fears may increase exponentially. Some of these things may seem trivial to you and would have been trivial to them a few years prior.
Instead of simply becoming frustrated with this stage of life, here are three ways you can honor your aging parents and continue to build a healthy relationship with them that lasts.
- Demonstrate patience
Listen to their worries and become for them someone in whom they can express their fears. Bear with them in love. Remember, they put up with you when you were a toddler and a teenager.
- Practice presence
If they live in your area, make time to visit them often. If they live farther away like out of state, then schedule specific times of the month to call them. If you have a family of your own send them pictures of the grandkids – try and utilize Skype or FaceTime. Connect to them with social media. Give them brief “family news reports,” and when you correspond to them be liberal with your “I love you’s” and “thank you’s.”
- Give provision
They may be on a fixed income and although at one time they were financially independent they need your help with making ends meet. Prepare for this by setting aside a “parent emergency fund.” Help them out when needed. Pay for them to come visit you. Most importantly, ensure that their medical needs are met.
Honor builds healthy relationships that last. Choose to honor your aging parents.
To hear more about building relationships that last with your parents visit the following link to listen to a message I recently preached with our Student Minister, Tyler Goudeau. Parents For Keeps – Littleton Church Messages.