“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you.” Deuteronomy 5:16 spells out this commandment clearly. I was blessed with very good parents, and this was not a difficult directive.
My sister, my cousin and I went on a genealogical road trip a couple of months ago. We visited the places where my mom’s parents were born. My grandmother’s place of birth was Lime Springs, Iowa, still a quaint town of 500, and my grandfather was from Kettle River in northern Minnesota, also a very small settlement a few hours away.
I remember both of them as kind, gentle people. It never occurred to me until this trip to consider what their stories were, how they met. I also wondered what kind of people their parents were and how their families got to these small towns in the first place.
It dawned on me that my parents were shaped by their parents and grandparents just as I have been by mine, and my personality traits and values come from way beyond the scope I’d originally thought in my limited view. It is incredible to me when I think of my origins, from my ancestors and beyond that to when I was only a spark in the imagination of God.
Through the various ages and stages of my life, I have had different perceptions of my parents. They were loving, generous, kind and supportive to me. They also instructed me and were stern at times, when necessary. Although God is ineffable, I can visualize God’s goodness, compassion, caring, comfort and protection by how my parents treated me.
Going on that road trip and seeing the places where my grandparents were born and raised was an eye-opening experience for me. I can imagine God saying to me before I was born, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). My future was determined by so many factors, and people, along with the choices I have made throughout my life. But God’s hand was there the whole time.
In the second half of my life, I contemplate the questions posed by Dawna Markova in “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life”: “What’s unfinished for me to give? What’s unfinished for me to heal? What’s unfinished for me to learn? What’s unfinished for me to experience?”
How have I affected the people I have come in contact with during my life? Have I been a parent deserving honor?
I wonder what attributes my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will most remember about me. Will they feel the unconditional love from me as God has shown all of us? Will they recall my eyes as being full of compassion, my soul being full of tolerance and acceptance? I hope so.
Liz Donnelly is one of The Kansas City Star’s Faith Walk writers. She can be reached at email@example.com.