Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Musings: The Fifth Commandment

"Honoring your father and your mother means obeying them!"
"When you move out, you can make your own decisions, but while you're under my roof, you do as I say!"

How many times have we single-adults-who-still-live-at-home heard these things? Does it feel like your parents just want to put a damper on your self-sufficiency? Do you feel like this particular commandment only serves to inhibit your path to full-fledged maturity? Like maybe it's used by your parents as an excuse to keep you under their thumb?

Here's a thought: wouldn't it be easier if we singles-living-at-home were just allowed to make our own decisions, do our own thing? After all, we must take responsibility for our place as contributing members of society--and how is that possible if we have to check in whenever we want to do something?

I learned an important principle this morning, and it served to clarify my specific role as a single adult living at home.

The principle is this: God designed a family to live and function together. 
Mind blowing, right? So much of culture is designed to give kids independence, to allow teenagers to be autonomous and away from their families and out of the home and that's okay, because we have devices so that parents can track their kids' whereabouts, and it's a good sign if the kid feels like he's ready to be out on his own at an early age, because hey, it's maturity, right? Nobody wants to be "tied down" by their parents, or "apron-clinging." The parent-child relationship that was so idyllic up to the age of ten suddenly begins to spiral out of control through the teen years--and by the time one hits twenty and remains single, the question becomes, "Now what?"

God designed a family to live and function TOGETHER.

"Honor your father and your mother." Notice there's no cut-off date; Paul, in Ephesians 6:1, instructs, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord"--but as every twentysomething is quick to point out, this verse is specifically aimed at children. Then comes the rejoinder from the parents "YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY KID!" To which the "scholarly evangelical" maintains that the word "children" is "little children," and thus does not apply to anyone over the age of ten.

Which begs the question: if I'm supposed to obey my parents as a child, and honor them all my life, what do I do when I'm not a child anymore?

Here's where I learned something new: God, in designing the family to live and function as a singular unit with many parts (much like the Trinity)--through the whole life of the family--provides an answer to this confusion that is not readily apparent in today's culture. But back then, there weren't nursing homes or hospice care or retirement communities. Married couples didn't immediately move across the country and there weren't many "empty nests"--because of the way God intended adults to honor their parents.

Children are to honor their parents by primarily obedience. Adolescents (teenagers) honor their parents by respecting them.

Adults obey this commandment and show honor to their parents because it's the adult child's responsibility to care for their parents.
For most of our lives, we see the parents as the ones taking care of us. They don't need help, we do; they don't need to earn money by doing special extra chores around the house to be able to purchase food and sundries for the home, we do.

Guess what? Once we "graduate" from being kids-who-need-care--now it's our turn.

All those chores that don't make sense, that only seem to be "preparing you for your own home", the various "house rules" that you can never seem to keep to their satisfaction, whereupon the Fifth Commandment Smackdown commences...

They're not just there to make our lives miserable and keep us in "bondage" to our parents. I never realized this before, but our parents are preparing and equipping us to take care of them.

I do chores and keep the house clean because I am taking care of my parents.

I run errands and take responsibility for my siblings and participate in the purchasing of groceries because I'm taking care of my parents.

I keep my room clean because I'm taking care of my parents.

I communicate with my parents when I want to stay out late because I am making sure they are taken care of.

I get a job and make money and save it for things I really need instead of blowing through it on a monthly basis because I am taking care of my parents.

I do what they ask me to do because I am taking care of my parents.

I obey the rules they have arranged for their home because I am taking care of my parents.

God is not an arbitrary rule-maker. Every one of the Ten Commandments is fully intentional--not just poetic or meant for a "simpler time" or a "primitive society." God intended the family to live and function together, so He provided the best method to ensure that this happens to the benefit of all parties involved, and He gets the glory. Yes, we can make our own decisions; yes, we are our own individual--but we also have the duty to honor our parents and be the ones responsible for their well-being as they were responsible for ours.

I think I can live with that.

Dear Mom and Dad--
I want to publicly thank you for your years of service to me. Thank you for patiently training me, coaching me, counseling me, and loving me.
I am sorry that I didn't realize my role as an adult child sooner, but know that I have a new heart and a new resolution: to fulfill my adult responsibility as your caretaker. I take care of the home when you're away, and I am proactive in seeking out the ways I can honor you by taking care of you (i.e., making meals, cleaning the house, following the rules of the home, etc.) when you are here.
God bless you for the way you have poured out yourselves to this family, and I pray for His grace to repay some of that back in this manner.
Your loving daughter