Have you ever thought about your life and the impact you’ve made? Think about all the things that happen between your birth announcement and your obituary. When you get to the end, how do you think you’ll feel about yourself? Maybe it’s because I’m old but I spend a lot of time reflecting on my life. Sometimes it feels like I’ve wasted much of it. Many times I have guilt, regret, sadness, and anger. I needed to be much better. I thought I would be. Take a few minutes and think about yourself.
I know that some people are awful parents, but most do their best. The problem is, they all have lots of baggage. They just do. Their parenting guide is usually based on what was modeled for them, by their parents. Some make a mess of their life and the result is often serious damage to a spouse and children. Perhaps you hate a parent for the mess they made. I’m sure many people do. For years I looked back at my childhood and thought, “no wonder I’m messed up”. I just wanted an excuse and needed someone to blame for the person I’d become. But I’m more to blame for who I am than my parents are. They only had me for 22 years. I’ve had the rest of my life to make changes to the things I don’t like about myself. Why didn’t I? Why don’t I? Why won’t I?
I was raised in the church. Some of you weren’t but the teaching I received, and the Bible I read, says “honor your father and mother”. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. It doesn’t say to honor them if we think they did a good job, or if they didn’t make any mistakes. It doesn’t matter what they were like. You are commanded to honor them. Honoring them means when they get older, your job is to care for them. You are not allowed to be too busy to care for your aging parents. Do not lock them away in a home and forget about them. And honoring means to tell them you love them, even if they never said it to you. Especially if they never said it to you.
What about your kids? Do they feel the same way about you that you feel about your parents? Those kids, they aren’t your personal property, and it’s not their job to make you look good. You are not allowed to live vicariously through them. If you didn’t make the cheerleading squad, or couldn’t dance, hit a baseball, or dunk a basketball, it’s not up to them to pick up the slack for you. That’s your problem. Get over it. They have their own life to live. Raise them in the way they should go, not the way you want them to go. They are a blessing from God and you should help them become the person he intends them to be. He doesn’t make junk and he made them exactly the way they are, not the way you want them to be.
Kids need love. Hug them often and tell them how much you love them. Your primary responsibilities as a parent are to provide for them, protect them, take them to church and love them. If you do these things the rest will sort itself out. Give them some space to make mistakes. That’s how they learn and figure things out. Do not make them do everything the way you want it done. Have you ever seen how happy your child is when they know they’ve pleased you? Make it easy for them to please you. Only you can provide the large doses of encouragement and affirmation they need. And as often as you can, find reasons to say “yes”.
Pray, a lot. Are you so busy and preoccupied that you forget to pray? How can we forget to talk to the almighty creator of the universe? He has given us direct access to the throne of heaven but for some reason, we’ve got other stuff that’s more important. What, are you kidding me? That box that we put God into…let him out. He doesn’t fit into your little box. Nice try though. And by the way, we need all the help we can get so talk to him.
Don’t miss church. Sing all the songs during worship. And if the person next to you raises their hands during the singing, and you don’t do that, it doesn’t mean they are weird. Maybe they are but you should spend more time worrying about your stuff and not them flapping their arms around. We are supposed to be disciples of Christ so figure out how to be like Jesus. It’s hard. Work at it.
Hate sin. All of it. We are in mortal combat with the prince of darkness and he wants us to believe a bunch of lies that cheapen our relationship with our heavenly father. And did I forget to mention that you need to be in the word, every day? It is your roadmap. You want to know God’s plan and his will for your life? It’s in the book. If you are not reading your Bible regularly, you’re too busy, too self-absorbed, and too disobedient. Read it.
If you’re married, next to your relationship with Jesus, your spouse is the most important person in your life. She’s more important in your marriage relationship than you, so treat her that way and your marriage will prosper. She deserves your complete devotion, faithfulness, and support in everything she does. Stop criticizing her. Support her. Stop trying to make her be your mother. You didn’t marry your mom, and if you think you did, you better get fixed. She needs you to listen, hug, defend, and love her. If you ever strike her in anger, for any reason, you are a worthless, miserable, despicable piece of garbage. She is not your punching bag. Don’t ever touch her that way.
Got a job? Great. If not, get one. You need to support your family so stop sitting around waiting for someone else to support you. At work, be a good co-worker. Most people want to do a good job so don’t talk negatively about anybody…ever. Your job description does not include “talk about and criticize my co-workers”. Work is important but family is more important. Don’t let your job get in the way of your family. Don’t do it.
What else? Eat more ice cream. Get out and do stuff. Are you bored? Read. Do you know how much you can enrich your life by reading a book? Watch less television. Most of it is rubbish anyway. Take long walks. Look at nature. Get into the country at night and look at the stars. Spend time in solitude and meditation. Journal. Drive in the right lane, do the speed limit and don’t get angry at how brain-damaged people become behind the wheel of an automobile. Life is meant to be lived. Live it. When you get to be my age, spend every minute you can with your grandkids. Never miss a chance to see them and be with them. Never.
Life goes by way too fast. Don’t look back and wish yours was different. Read this excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s book entitled “The Hungering Dark.”
“… we must be careful with our lives, for Christ’s sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is that we do not. We have only a life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us. Because surely Marquand was right that for each of us there comes a point of no return, a point beyond which we no longer have life enough left to go back and start all over again.”