Heated words flew uninhibited. Hot tears of frustration and misunderstanding welled up and overflowed. Although unusual in our house (thankfully), it was a rather typical disconnect between invested parents and strong-minded teenagers that left all of us heading for our respective corners, hurt and confused, scratching our heads and praying for wisdom and healing.
By the time we sat at the bus stop the next morning, the fiery emotions had cooled, but honest questions remained. “I just don’t get it,” one of my teens confessed out loud, “why doesn’t Dad think we respect him?”
I took a deep breath, prayed for help, and decided that even with limited time to delve into this topic, we were going to try. “What do you think that word means, ‘respect’?” The response I heard made me realize how much the worldview around us impacts the impressionable minds of our kids. “Respect means that everyone has a voice, everyone can hold and express their viewpoint, everyone’s input is equally valued.”
After another deep breath, I fumbled to find a gentle way to realign this thinking. “Yes, that is a very good definition for respect among your peers, your fellow students. But I would hope that you have a different perspective when it comes to interacting with your teachers or administrators. I believe the Lord calls us to view our relationships with those in authority over us, including our parents… and Him… differently.”
“Our relationship with our earthly father can teach us a lot about our relationship with God as our heavenly Father, and vice versa. So maybe we can start there… How do we show respect for God as our Father? How do we honor Him?”
Thankful that the bus was a little later than usual that day, we came up with this little list:
– we acknowledge that He is God and we are not
– we read His Word to get to know Him better and understand His heart
– we try to learn what He wants us to do and how He wants us to do it
– we try to do things in a way that pleases Him and represents His character well to other people
– we trust Him, even when we have questions, and do our best to obey, even when we don’t know all the reasons for what He is asking us to do
To be honest, as this list was rolling off our tongues, my own heart before God began to sink. Wow. Parenting can be SO convicting! I realized that this little bus stop lesson wasn’t just for my kids. It was a really important checkpoint for me! I found my heart pounding as I came face to face with one probing question, “what in my attitude or actions shows that I respect and honor God as my Father?”
But to finish the lesson at hand, I tried to make the connection, “Sooo, how can you show that you respect and honor Dad as your father?” We walked through our list again:
– you acknowledge that he is the parent, and you are his children (big kids, but still his children)
– you spend time with him and ask him respectful questions to get to know him better and understand his heart
– you try to learn what he wants you to do, what he likes and how he likes you to do it
– you try to do things in a way that will please him and show him that your character is growing
– you trust him, even when you don’t understand his perspective, and do your best to obey (“immediately and completely!”), even when you don’t know all the reasons for what he is asking you to do
As we went through the list, the backseat became a bit quieter. “Sooo, what in your attitudes or actions has shown Dad that you respect and honor him?” My bold children sunk into the seat with a muffled, “ohhhh.” “Do you maybe understand a little better why Dad feels like you guys don’t respect him, especially when you treat the things he asks you to do as “optional”?” Another muffled “uh huh.” “Well, why don’t we pray that the Lord will help all of us to be a little more conscious of showing the respect and honor that He calls us to show toward Dad.” With a nod of agreement, I heard a humbled, “guess we didn’t really see it that way.”
The bus arrived and another school day was off and running. I was left in an empty car, pondering our little exchange. Does God feel that I respect and honor Him? Do I consciously make the effort to get to know Him well enough to make choices and grow character that truly represents His heart? Do I navigate life’s twists and turns in a way that shows that I trust Him, even when I don’t fully understand what He is doing?
The Lord has placed my husband at the head of our home. Do my own attitudes and actions respect and honor him in that role? Do I take time to listen to his heart, learn what touches him and lovingly try to do things the way he likes them, just because he likes them that way? Do I trust him? Do I let him know with my prayers and support that I trust the Lord to lead us through him? Do I respectfully share my thoughts, and in the end, choose to stand with him, even if I don’t fully understand his perspective?
Really, really good questions!!! Not just for my teenagers – but for me!
I am thankful our God is so faithful – faithful to touch our hearts with new layers of truth. And that He is oh, so gentle. We can trust Him to help us grow. We can lean into Him and with His help, be open and transparent with our kids. We can honestly reach for their young hands and hearts and say to them, “I’m still learning these things too. Let’s work on them together.”
God gave us another gift that morning. Sitting at the bus stop, while it was still dark, we looked up to see a “ribbon in the sky” – pure white against inky blue – the remains of a satellite launch from Cape Canaveral. We had never seen anything like it before – and haven’t seen it again since. Just on that particular day. It reminded us that the Lord is the One who holds us all together – the One who is orchestrating these moments in our family to help us grow closer together, bound by Him, living by His truth.
“Wrap yourselves in unselfish love, which is the perfect bond of unity; for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others.” Colossians 3:14
“If you love Me, keep my commands.” John 14:15
“What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees.” Deut 10:12-13
“Honor those who are in authority over you, be obedient, ready to do every good deed.” Titus 3:1
“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossian 1:10