Why I’m Moving My Family to Maryland: A Discussion of Honoring Parents

Posted on June 1, 2016 in Family, Theology by

maryland_flag1After living in West Virginia for the last 15 years, I’m moving my family to Maryland for reasons that some people don’t quite understand.

I came to West Virginia from the great state of Ohio. I’d spent most of my life in Ohio and considered Ohio my “home state.” I was not thrilled about moving to West Virginia in 2001 because all I knew about the Mountaineer state was redneck and hillbilly jokes. A “city boy” like me was bound to be out of place and have little in common with people that considered “giggin frogs” a viable weekend recreation. But I came here for family.

My dad is a pastor. He had just accepted a position with a church in West Virginia and moved when I was at a place of transition in my life. We talked about working together at this new church as a family; my brother, dad, mom, and myself. The thought of working with family was something that I would not fully appreciate until many years after it was over. But for now I was excited to be living and working around my family.

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m now pensive as I leave West Virginia.

What once was a strange and “backward” state to me is now a cherished home. No state is perfect, but West Virginia has become a place that I am proud to call home. When it comes to freedom, West Virginia is hard to beat. We value individual liberty and freedom about as much as any state can. This once very blue state is quickly turning red as many residents realize the political party of their fathers has left them behind. The atmosphere in West Virginia is one of old-fashioned values and principles. It’s a place where politically correct often comes to die.

Why would I ever leave West Virginia?

The very same thing that brought me here is now taking me away: family.

My wife’s family is from Maryland. They have fairly deep roots there. My in-laws have just moved to a beautiful town in Maryland to a home surrounded by woods. Without divulging too much information, let me say that my in-laws are getting older and there is some health concerns. As well, my sister-in-law is mentally handicapped and requires constant, ongoing care.

So as my wife and I talked, we became more concerned for her parents and my sister-in-law. We wanted to be there to help, serve, and lessen the burden of ongoing tasks. So we prayed and sought council from others as to what we should do. That’s where this narrative takes an interesting turn.

The more we talked and prayed, the more we felt certain that we needed to help. But as I spoke to several people about the need to care for my wife’s family, I was met with puzzled looks and near befuddlement as people wondered what the big deal was. I frequently heard such comments as these:

“Is there anyone else that can do it?”

“Can your sister-in-law go into a home?”

“Do they really need you?”

People wondered why I would be willing to give up such a great opportunity (a new job that was going extremely well) just to help with yard work and caring for a family member. I admit that I was confused. I wasn’t looking for “wow, I have a lot of respect for you being willing to do that,” but I also wasn’t prepared for the hesitancy so many people offered. Ironically, when telling many lost friends and neighbors about our decision, they were very quick to offer support and respect. I would have thought Christians quick to offer support for someone seeking to honor their parents but that did not seem to be the case.

Maybe the issue is that “honor your father and mother” is not as black and white as we think. What does honoring your parents look like in real life? When we’re kids it means obeying them, being respectful, following the rules of their house. But as adults the idea of honoring our parents can be a little more arbitrary. And, as my experience has shown, can mean different things to different people.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t explain exactly what honoring our father and mother looks like. There isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts that we need to follow. So the expression of honor becomes personal.

For us it means moving 90 minutes out of state to be down the road. It means planning to spend times each week doing housework, yard work, grocery shopping and running errands. It means caring for a disabled family member to give my mother-in-law a break after nearly 40 years of doing it herself. These are practical ways we can honor our parents and show our gratitude to them for their years of caring for us.

But for us this is also a lesson. We want our three kids to understand why we are moving and what it means to “honor your father and mother.” It’s an example we hope they will carry with them so that should we require care when we are older they will be eager to lend a hand. They won’t have a reference point for what honoring your parents looks like if we don’t set the example for them. So we are explaining to them why we are moving and the biblical principle motivating us.

I’m certainly not suggesting that this is the only way to honor our parents. Through our lives there will be many opportunities to honor our parents in genuine ways. But I do believe that being willing to aid in their care as they age is a biblical expression of honor. Some won’t have the opportunity to honor their parents in this way due to parents dying early or suddenly. Some won’t be able to honor their parents in this way due to obligation, such as the military. And still others will not consider this type expression of honor due to a culture that promotes a selfish worldview.

I can’t define what honoring your parents looks like for you. But I hope that when the time comes you will recognize both the need and the opportunity to honor your parents and be willing to act on it. I hope your kids learn what honoring your parents is from you and the example you set for them.

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