I’ve been an adult for so long it feels as though I’ve always been one. I left home on a bus when I was seventeen. From that point, my army enlistment immersed me in a grown-up regimen. Military service was not the camping trip with guns I thought it might be. I arose at ungodly hours, worked myself to exhaustion during the day, took guff from folks I didn’t like, and made little money.
The longer I stayed gone from home, the further I drifted into the adult agenda. I got married and paid bills. Changed some diapers. Moved to new cities. Entered positions of leadership in various churches.
Seems like I’ve been doing this since the day I was born.
Of course I haven’t. Two other people know this with crystal clarity as well, because they lived through it with me.
Which brings me to the commandment to honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12).
Honor your parents because for one thing, they remember a time before you were ever around. Regardless of what you think you are now, there was a time when you were a non-person. If it weren’t for these two people, you’d still be a zero.
I’m about to stand in front of a congregation. I tuck in my shirt and put on a sport coat. I’m supposed to be well-groomed. Two people who live far away remember me before I was potty trained—when I was happy wearing dirty diapers around.
I get my notes together. I’m going to relay what Moses and Jesus and the Apostle Paul said to believe and to do. I’m fifty-three and a pastor. Two people remember a different me—when I was a kid throwing up all day Sunday because Saturday night I found a bottle of Old California Muscatel and wanted to impress some friends by drinking all of it.
I prep myself with prayer. I’m going to stand up and preach the truth of God this morning to my youngish congregation, even if it makes me and everyone else uncomfortable. Truth is paramount. But two people remember when truth was like kryptonite to me.
I was in class, I swear I didn’t skip school and go bass fishing!
I didn’t break the ceramic horse by having a Nerf football championship in the house.
I didn’t burn up your dry flower arrangement while playing with a cigarette lighter.
I don’t know who ate that entire dozen donuts supposed to be for the family breakfast.
I have no idea who picked the pecans off the top of the pie.
The moment has arrived. I clip on a mic and do my best to represent Jesus and the kingdom of God. I want to be an example of godly joy. But not too many years ago I pitched greed-driven fits at Christmastime and at birthday parties. Two people saw it. The same two also watched me experience the misery of having a broken heart, and therefore not wanting to eat, or make small talk, or treat anybody else in the house decently.
This beautiful Sunday morning in 2016 I go on with the sermon. It often calls upon listeners to love and serve other people. That wasn’t my theme years back. Two “referees” had to break up fights between me and my brother in elevators, in the back seats of cars, and in department stores. After my sister tattled on me, I once called her every stitched together PG-13 name I knew, starting with “booger face.” The two who heard it sentenced me to writing a hundred and fifty times, “I will not say ugly things to my sister.”
I’m thinking about this as I plan the southern trek to visit my mother next month, and then my father in June. They’re going to see the current me (I hope), but they remember a certain Mr. Hyde.
Honor your father and mother, because they knew who you were before you became what you are.
PHOTO: That was me in the 1975 school play. I rocked a serious early sport coat style. Fortunately, I would never get to wear one like it in any pulpit.