All kinds of spring things are going on here in Australia at the moment. During daylight hours, it’s all about the ‘fight of the sparrows’; which sounds vaguely like a movement from a classical music piece, but is actually just a bunch of squeaking and squawking outside my windows and doors.
There is a young raven whose territorial check-points include a stopover in the yard behind mine, and he flew over with a girl-friend a few weeks ago, so they will be nesting somewhere in the neighbourhood right now.
Yes, it’s quite rural here.
The garden is pushing it’s spring growth quickly now, even though the temperature isn’t what I would call great, but then, I do tend to be genetically lizard-like. Even in 25o Celcius, I’m not always warm!
It seems that the whole world is parenting. Even down to the dandelions and the sticky weed…!
In the middle of all this growth and expectancy, one of the things that I have been walking through is a journey, not into the future, but through my foundational past.
Honour 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)
This is the fifth commandment recorded in the famous ten commandments written by Gods’ own finger on those stone tablets that we remember so dramatically from Sunday school stories.
Our parents, like our neighbours, are not just our physical, genetic parents. They are also our spiritual parents, our aunts and uncles, our fore-fathers, our influencers, those who have ‘gone before’ us and forged paths for our feet, people who have laid foundations for us, people who have taught us, guided us, disciplined us, moulded us.
I spent a lot of time in my youth being brought up not just by my physical, genetic parents, but also by the proverbial ‘village’. Not just the physical village either, although they were certainly there. Those ‘not-aunts’ and ‘not-uncles’ that everybody seems to collect over time, people who aren’t related to you, but you either spent so much time in their house, you may as well be their kid, or your parents and they were fast friends, and so the honorarium came with the territory!
Spiritually, I recognise how much of an influence people I have never even met have also had on the shaping of who I am. These people are also ‘parents’, mothers and fathers who parented my soul and spirit through difficult periods in my life. People whose work cemented the foundation for pillars of morality, boundaries, spiritual truths, a hiding place with Jesus and other vital work that underpin who I am.
All these people and the work they did for me are what I now recognise were the anchor that held me to God during the period of years while the world I was living in was a complete mess.
But … he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus said: Luke 10:29-30 (NIV)
I owe a significant debt to the Jesus Movement of the 60’s & 70’s and the onflow to the 80’s for my spiritual formation, to the hammering in of what little morality remained in me by the time I hit 15, and held me together while my psychological and spiritual world was negotiating the chaos of that period.
I want to honour my parents and pseudo parents, the aunts and uncles, the people who lived God’s life in far off places and had no idea that the albums, songs, stories that they produced would be holding up the lives of children in tiny towns on the other side of the earth and be used by God to eventually produce functional adults.
For me, a small part of this list includes: my parents, aunts and uncles; Candle and Agape Force, Keith & Melody Green, Maranatha! Kids; the friends of my parents. In my childhood particularly the S family, Mrs. O, Mrs. A, Mrs L. In my teens, particularly the M family, the D family, the P family, the H family, the H family, and all others who watched out while I was running around being Neverlands’ Lost Girl. In my adulthood, the V family, the D family, the M family, the S family, a group of women, and several other beautiful friends whom I also will not name!
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 (NIV)
Having personally just been taken down this road by Jesus, at some stage, for everyone I believe it’s worth taking the time to pause and recall who those people are and were. Whether they were more obvious ones, like your actual parents, or Grandparents who were ‘in loco parentis’ or less obvious: bands, tv shows, the guy at the corner store who remembered your name.
It’s not just about it being a good idea. There’s a spiritual principle underneath it. God Himself says that if we want to go anywhere in our life, if we want to be established ourselves in the place we want to live- either literally or figuratively- then we need to honour our parents.
The act of remembering, recalling and honouring all the parents we have had in our life-time, is significant. It is one of those actions that physically and spiritually stitches together the work that has been completed in us over the years. Like the Act of Forgiveness, Honour unto God is an act of will.
Honouring someone does not always mean that we like what they do. Jesus honoured Zaccheus by spending time with him, acknowledging him as a person who, same as any person, was worthy of Jesus’ time and attention, but in no way did he excuse his behaviour.
We can honour someone, and not excuse their behaviour or attitude. We can honour their intention, their best efforts, and if all else fails, we can honour them for the fact that Jesus loves them. A person is still a person and they still deserve to come to know Jesus and experience the fullness of the life that He brings.
I don’t know whether it is the right time for you and Jesus to take a similar journey together or not. My journey has opened a depth of gratitude in my soul that I wasn’t aware of previously. I feel more whole, more grounded, more settled. I am more aware of the depths to which Jesus went to, making sure the foundations were in place before and while I faced my ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.
I can more clearly see His hand at work over time, see the gold-lit path under my feet, see that the whole path I have trodden has been lit by, guided by and underpinned by God, even in the darkest of places.
It’s because of these people, the act of honouring them, and the journey I have been guided through by Jesus to see the impact they had that has given me this insight.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
We in turn, as we travel our journey, as we walk the Narrow Way, as we minister to our neighbour, need to be aware that our neighbour may be the small child that is in front of us, and that we may be the parent or the pseudo-parent, the aunt or uncle that God uses to create a God-foundation for someone.
We already know that every action and decision that we take is an action that impacts not only on ourselves, but on other people. Nobody needs a reminder about that. What I do want to encourage us all in is our relationship with God, because with Him we are able to grow into the best we were made to be.
I’m sure that the people on my list would not pretend to be perfect, but they were there (even the ones who were not literally there, like those musicians I mentioned). They were present with God (knowing it or not), and He was able to use them in a way that has significantly impacted my life.
They were my neighbours, my mothers and fathers, and I hope that as I continue to walk The Narrow Way, that I am able to walk increasing closely with God, so that our impact on the world around us is as helpful to other people as those on my list was to me.
It’s the same prayer I have for all of us.
God Bless You Very Much.