Well, it's New Year's Eve and I'm blogging from St.Vincent's Hospital in Little Rock where in about an hour or so, my oldest son, Zack, will undergo back surgery to repair a herniated disc pinching a nerve at L5/S1 in his lower back. A freshman quarterback on scholarship at Taylor University in Indiana, the kid is tough as nails having played through the pain of broken bones in his back, too, for the past two seasons. And after a year of message therapy, chiropractic treatment, steroid injections and epidurals, it's finally (and thankfully) come down to this: surgery. The prognosis, however, is very good and this gives us much cause to celebrate with Zack tonight in spite of our circumstances.
"Be joyful always ...
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Dr. Richard Peek is a highly skilled surgeon and partnered with the Great Physician, we know Zack's in good hands. Dr. Peek will make a one inch incision and trim the disc at the point of the bulge eliminating the pressure on the nerve and, consequently, the chronic pain shooting down the back left side of Zack's body from buttock to knee. The procedure will take no more than a couple of hours. Assuming no complications, Zack will be walking within a few hours and for the first time in more than two years (God willing) free of pain.
Our family would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Zack in the days and months ahead, indeed, as we seek for him a full recovery and return to the playing field. Of course, through such experiences, resolve is tested; and I have no doubt, Zack is growing in character, patience and responsibility through it all. May God continue to have his way and will in our son.
On Sunday, November 23, I spoke on loving our parents as part of Mosaic's current series entitled, Love is a Verb. After discussing the fifth commandment, as well as that which otherwise assumes a healthy relationship with parents, I addressed the question, "What about honoring parents in situations where they have not acted honorably?" In other words, when parents are not in the Lord, of the Lord or about the Lord; in situations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, etc., what should be our response?
Given the fact that well over half of our congregation (as indicated by a show of hands) were raised in and (therefore) are still dealing with issues of hurt, anger, rejection, grief and pain concerning their parents, the message was both deep and healing for many. And those of you struggling with doing the right thing in child/parent relationships that were or remain less than ideal may want to listen to the message now available on our website.
Following the second service, then, one woman approached me to suggest that I upload the following instruction for those needing navigational insights, such that would help them deal to rightly deal with otherwise dysfunctional parental relationships in this holiday season. "So," she said, "how about publishing a 'Relational Bill of Rights' for others like me who are struggling with doing the right thing?"
So in response, here are insights flowing from the message Sunday that I believe are in keeping with what is and is not the heart of God on the matter. At that time, I listed seven specific statements; but here I've listed ten, breaking out some of my subpoints from Sunday as separate statements all their own. And please note that the list assumes that a) one's parent(s) is acting less than honorably in relating to their adult child(ren), i.e., selfishy, outside the will and word of God, etc.; and that b) the adult child is attempting to walk with God, i.e., to love and forgive others, etc., even a parent(s) who has deeply hurt or otherwise let them down.
A Relational Bill of Rights
1. You are not bound to honor parents (i.e., to show them great respect, glory in, etc.) who have not acted honorably. In other words, it is my belief that the fifth commandment assumes parents are acting honorably by selflessly loving, caring, instructing and releasing their children to adulthood in the fear and admonition of the Lord (see Proverbs 3:1-2; 4:10-12 for some perspective). Indeed in discussing authentic love, Paul states that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness; and sometimes, love even withdraws or confronts! So we must not be confused on the point. We are without question bound to love our parents by forgiving them, setting boundaries, accentuating what is positive about them to our own children, and/or writing a tribute, etc.; but we are not bound to honor those who are not otherwise honorable in respect to their treatment of us, our spouses, children, etc.
2. You are not bound to respond to guilt, manipulation or shame-based pressure exerted by parents otherwise seeking to control you or your actions;
3. You are not bound to go to places where they tread upon you, ill-treat you or otherwise crush your spirit;
4. You are not bound to respond to statements such as, "If you don't do ..., I will cut you out of my will, I will kill myself, our relationship will be over, etc." You must avoid codependency, i.e., a situation in which one person (either you or your parent) needs the other to make life worth living. In other words, you must not allow a parent to position you as their rescuer/savior.
5. You are not bound to see or be near a parent(s) at the risk of your spouse, your marriage or your children. Rather, you are bound to keep them safe, especially in situations where a parent sees them as a threat to their own relational security.
6. You are not bound to keep secrets from your spouse as otherwise prompted by a parent. In addition, you must protect yourself and your children from a parent or grandparent who would favor one child over another, and/or use gifts and rewards to manipulate them in any other way.
7. You are not bound to live with or near them if God has led you otherwise.
8. You are not bound to guilt, i.e., you are not at fault for who they are or have become.
9. You are not bound or otherwise responsible for their salvation.
10. You are not bound to compromise your faith somehow in order to maintain the relationship.
So with a wish for blessed holiday interaction with your parents, I welcome your comments.
Sure, family is something we are all born into, as last names attest. But when do our children truly become like us? To be clear, I am not speaking of mere behavior or genetics. Rather, my concern is with essence and character. Indeed, how and when are children prepared to bear the standards of the family name?
More on this in a moment.
But here, I digress to confess that through much of the fall, I have been somewhat angry with God. In large part, my frustration relates to the fact that just over two years ago, God clearly led Linda and I to transfer our son, Zack, from one school to another prior to his 10th grade year in high school. After nine years in one environment, however, it was not at all an easy thing for Zack to do, or an easy calling for us, as his parents, to embrace. And since then, Linda and I have dealt often with feelings of self-doubt, regret and guilt (false though it may be). Certainly the maturity “beyond his years” that Zack's displayed throughout this time made such feelings more manageable. Indeed, Zack has made the most of his experience, with rare complaint, and become a man in the process.
So why my unresolved tension?
God never told me why. That is, Why the move? Why the emotional price and pai?, Why (seemingly) so little to show for obedience, etc.? Is there no relief? Is there no reward?
The fact is, I have just never understood the move. Until recently - finally – when God spoke in the middle of a November night, clear as a bell.
He simply said, “Tonight I’m going to tell you why.”
In spite of the hour, I quickly recognized this to be one of “those moments” and immediately God had my attention. He said,
“You and Linda – your passions and life values, your marriage and ministry – are defined by three words: faith, courage and sacrifice. And it’s through the experience at Robinson that I have infused these same traits in him. It’s there that I made Zack a DeYmaz.”
In a moment, my angst was turned to peace and since then, I have not looked back. Yes, there is a God … and I am not Him. Indeed, it is He who is answering our prayers to turn my son into a man, and more than that, into a follower of Christ, part of the family.
So at this moment, I’m sitting by a warm fire, high on a mountain in the log home of my in-laws in Washington State overlooking the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and majestic Mt Hood, just outside of Portland, Oregon. This year, the entire family is gathered here for Christmas … and for one more thing.
In a few days, some of the men of the family – Great Grandpa Dr. Willard Aldrich (99), his son, Dr. Tim Aldrich, Zack’s grandpa, Dr. Warren Brown, and my brother-in-law, Mark Averill – who have all devoted their lives to pastoral ministry and Christian service, will gather to commission Zack in prayer as a right of passage just prior to college. Each will speak to from their own perspective concerning the practical relevance of these traits for a significant life. The, following prayer, I will present Zack with a gift of tribute to mark the moment: his own football jersey from his senior year at Robinson - the one with the name DeYmaz on the back just over the number 7 - framed in a shadow-box. And below the jersey, three words inset …
Faith. Courage. Sacrifice.
Words that define who Zack is. Words that define who we are and what it means to be a DeYmaz.