Honoring has its challenges both individually and culturally. How much easier it is to slow down and adapt to the needs of a cute little child than respond to those of an older person. We may value life deeply, but an insidious prejudice creeps in. Thankfully, a few stand up on MAX and offer their seats to older gentlemen and ladies as scripture dictates. You shall rise up before the gray-headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:32 NLT
I fear these courteous acts are outnumbered by the impatient sighs or rolled eyes as an older person slowly counts out their change or tells the same story yet again. Elders as a target audience are demeaned because they may not be pleasant, productive, or up to date on the latest technology. Ageism is rampant in our media, but it has also gained entry into our hearts. We joke about the recurring 39th birthday and being over-the-hill, but none of it is funny. This negative humor not only devalues God’s gift of long life, it dishonors all seniors.
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you. Deuteronomy 5:16 NLT This third commandment dictates that we honor our parents and grandparents—IF they are kind, considerate of their children and generous to a fault. Well, that is what we wish it said! While some parents may be quite difficult, the very God who placed us in families did not make his command conditional. Interestingly, the only part of this command that is conditional is the promise “your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you” if we obey this edict. God’s first commandment with a promise is to the obedient, honoring child. God knew honoring could be as difficult as parenting or any relationship. In contrast to the ageism common in our nation today, what does honoring look like?
COURTESY is honoring—holding a door open, speaking distinctly, making eye contact and smiling, helping with an awkward package, or waiting patiently honors every generation.
INCLUSION in family activities is honoring—even if you must provide the transportation, and they may fall asleep. One lady no longer cooked, so sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter for chit chat during the meal’s preparation was as enjoyable to her as the meal itself. Find out what is important to them, and provide that opportunity if you are able. Let your older family members be the ones to decide when they no longer wish to be included. When you so honor your parents, you are modeling for your children how you yourself wish to be treated.
GRATITUDE is honoring—remembering aloud the things they’ve done, or words spoken, or gifts given to us say you made a difference in my life. A written note or a card so personalized can be read and enjoyed many times.
LISTENING is honoring—really listening, and waiting for them (without interrupting) to find the right word or response, demonstrates their value to you. It says they are important and have something to offer you. Honoring looks past the wrinkles, the slower movements, even slowed thinking processes, to esteem the heart values acquired over a lifetime.
CARE-GIVING is honoring. Being an advocate for older family members or neighbors, seeing to their daily needs, or being their regular visitor clearly declares that they are of value to us.
LEARNING THEIR STORY is honoring. Valuing and asking about the photos and mementos displayed in their home is one place to begin. Going through their photo albums together can also prompt some wonderful memories. When I asked probing but open-ended questions of aging family members, I discovered tidbits of family history no one else knew. More importantly, these dear ones sat up straighter, and became animated and quite enthusiastic as they explained details of their lives in another time . . . roller skating on wooden sidewalks made by my great-grandfather. . . prejudice encountered in childhood as a red-headed Irish Catholic.
To honor, one must dig a little deeper and/or go one-on-one. You may benefit greatly from the insights God has given them. If they are not able or inclined to write their story, you could capture and preserve their life message for them and the next generations. Per Psalm 78:1-8, this is God’s plan to preserve and protect us from rebelling against our heavenly parent, God himself.
O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. Psalm 78: 1-8