This past weekend my parents came to visit me in D.C. I don’t see them very often because they live in Florida, so it’s special when we have a few days together. We planned meals and activities (including the Museum of the Bible, which was extraordinary), and tried to fill our short two days with quality time.
This weekend gave me so much joy in the moment, and then left me so melancholy in the days following. It reminded me how infrequently I see my family, and left we wondering, How can I honor my parents and do what is obligated of me, to love and obey them, if I never see them?
In my situation, which I believe is similar to many others, you often live with your family until you’re eighteen, and then you spend extended periods of time with them in college for summer, winter, and spring breaks. Once you’re working and moved away though, it becomes significantly harder to see each other.
Deuteronomy 5:16 says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
I’ve been reflecting on this passage, and asking myself if I am indeed honoring my parents. Certainly with my friends who are separated by distance, the occasional text suffices, but I feel my parents deserve much more than that. Even a call can go a long way, but that requires coordinating schedules – and my free time is usually 7AM or 7PM, neither of which is an appropriate time to call anyone. I worry I’m not fulfilling my duty, not communicating with them enough, and also that I’m sinning by not taking advantage of the time I have with them. So what can I do? After praying about this, I began to think differently. Perhaps, I thought, I haven’t abandoned them, but rather I’ve entered the life they have been preparing for me.
As adults living away from home, we can honor our parents by utilizing our education, by exercising our brains and gifts, and by being a person they are proud of. I don’t expect God wants us to live with our parents forever – birds don’t sit in the same nest their whole lives, they fly away to make new ones and to start families of their own. In a way, the best thing we can do as children is to be happy and successful in our own lives, even if that means being far away.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Even with the distance between us, I am still following the path my parents set me on, and though I make my own decisions, I am influenced by how they raised me. So if you ever feel saddened or discouraged by the demands of adulthood and the difficulty of maintaining contact with the elders you are close with, remember that you are cherishing and obeying them by living a life led by the heart they created, nourished, loved, and influenced so greatly. (Note: This is not an excuse to not call your parents. Still do that sometimes. They’ll appreciate it.)