Exodus 20:12 is often taught to young children to show them to respect, listen to and obey their parents. However, as a commandment-keeping people, we must understand that while God’s law never changes, how one honors one’s parents must change as you both grow and change.
Last month, my maternal grandmother turned 85. I praise God for her every day. Unfortunately, in this sin-afflicted world, her health is deteriorating and she is suffering from dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Dementia slowly destroys the connections in our brain which allow us to make new memories and remember old ones. It affects everything, including remembering where we put things, who people are, and how to brush our teeth. As the disease progresses, people can do and remember less and less.
During spring break, my mother and I had the opportunity to travel and help care for grandma. While diseases like these are heart-wrenching as we see the ways our loved ones suffer, my mother’s care (and that of my aunts as well) taught me so much about how our understanding of Exodus 20:12 must tangibly change as we, and our parents, age. The practical ways to honor our aging parents are not the same as when we were children, developing teenagers, or even as young adults, because during many of these stages our parents are still the ones giving advice and caring for us. Honoring our parents must be very different when our roles change, and we, the children, are the ones caring for our aging parents.
Some ways I’ve learned to honor our aging parents is to: