Remember when your parents would tell you not to go past the end of the block? Or maybe they wouldn’t let you leave the table until you finished every bit of peas that you pushed around the plate. Did your parents make you wear clothes to church, when company came over, or to their meetings that you would have never worn otherwise? Was “go outside and play” readily heard in your home?
It’s interesting, nostalgic, telling and frustrating to reflect on childhood memories and analyze where and how those reflections fit into who we are today, if they do at all. The saying goes something like, “swallow the meat and spit out the bones”, and that’s exactly what I have to do with some experiences from my youth. I believe we all do this in some capacity.
Whether we’re parenting, ministering, or even in social circles, remnants of our former years raise their heads in our present days. Happy, traumatizing or otherwise, voices from childhood shadows ring in our ears. The challenge is what to do with those utterings.
For me, in this moment, I am caring for my aging father as he traverses the waters of cancer. From having to call 911 from his apartment to begin this journey, to taking him to and fro hospital appointments, I have spent more time with my father in the past month than I have in my entire life. Not because he was absent physically as I was growing up per se, but he was definitely emotionally unavailable. Never mean or demeaning, simply, uninvolved. There aren’t many utterings of his for me to chew and swallow, nor bones to discard. Always the life of the party until he met his extroversion quota, he had a joke for every situation. It was his defense mechanism of choice: “If I can make you laugh, and you can see how charming I am, we won’t have to get closer, I won’t have to be vulnerable, and you can’t hurt me.”
Much of that remains today.
The more time we spend together, the more I find myself interceding for his past hurts that created the defensive, yet sensitive being that he is today. I look for opportunities to sneak in a spiritual hint or trigger some self-evaluation in him. Bittersweetly, it’s worked; sweetly because for the first time, he’s admitting truths about himself, out loud. That is unprecedented. However, bitterly because I now am in the position to show him grace and patience as he works through those things. Don’t get me wrong, grace and patience are, essentially, who I am. What makes it bitter is that I become the target, the sounding board, the counselor, the minister, the comforter and the friend; my mood or attitude about it matters not. I’m there, in those roles because God called me to be. He has prepped my life for such a time as this. My obedience and my dad’s soul are both incredibly important to God as well as Kingdom-building. And my dad will have an incredible testimony after all of this.
Though I am in something if a parental role to my parent, and it is weighty, stressful, and at times, draining, I am grateful that I have the wherewithal to be in this position for him. Even in making sure that he’s eating his vegetables and moving around as he should, I hear and feel crumbs from my youth. And I can only pray that my children will be able to be for me what God is allowing me to be for my parents.