“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12)
Let me preface by saying, I love my dad. He is the most hardworking, loyal, and sacrificial man that I know, sometimes to a fault. Our relationship has had its ups and downs since my mother’s passing, but I no longer am trying to change him. I have accepted him for the man that he is and realize our relationship will continue to change with time, as it should.
When a parent dies, one of two things will happen. Either you will idealize the deceased parent, or make the living parent the enemy. I experienced both of these extremes at different times. It’s easy to idealize the one because they will never change. You tend to only remember the good and their mistakes only lessen in your mind in comparison with how much you miss them. Where this can take an ugly turn is believing that if they were still alive that all would be better and that the living parent is the problem. Although he never verbalized it, I know my dad felt inadequate at times and wondered why it was my mom that left and not him.
After my mom died, my dad was not himself, because he had lost a part of himself. At the same time that he was recreating himself, I was learning how to relate to him apart from my mother. From my perspective, my father had changed and I didn’t like it. Whether my father was different, or was in actuality becoming his true self, he was bound to change because life is all about change. People don’t stay the same, including parents. Over time, children become adults and parents become friends, and neither are perfect. Children are still commanded to honor and obey their parents, but the relationship is supposed to change and grow into a friendship of mutual love and respect.
As an adult child, I’ve struggled with how to honor both my father and my mother, no matter if it’s distance or death that keeps us apart. I no longer live under my father’s house and my mother is no longer alive, but that doesn’t mean the command no longer applies. First, I have to love my Heavenly Father more than my earthly parents. If He comes first, than I wont try and make my parents something they are not. Second, I accept and love them. I could be upset that my mom is dead and that my dad has changed because of it. Or I could be grateful for the years I had with my mother and the years I still have left with my father. God knew what He was doing when he gave me my parents. I honor the memory of my mother by living my life for Christ. I honor my father by showing him love and respect. And I please my Heavenly Father by honoring the parents He has given me all the days of my life.