“Why should the name of our father be removed from his family because he had no son?”
Numbers 27: 4
“Honor Thy Father”
“Into the father’s grave the daughter, sometimes a gray-haired woman, lays away forever the little pet names and memories which to all the rest of the world are but foolishness.”
What does it mean to me to “honor” my father?
“You have to dig deep to bury your daddy.”
“Honouring our fathers and mothers may mean recognizing them as frail human beings who are not the gods or devils our childish memories make them. We may come to understand why our parents behaved as they did – even if we are critical of it”
As I have shared with you before, I was blessed to have wonderful Christian parents who not only loved me unconditionally, but also gave me a spiritual foundation on which to build my life.
My father and I, whose personalities were very similar, forged a relationship through the years that even 22 years after his untimely death, still serves as a beacon of light. Having been orphaned at only 6 months of age, my dad felt a great sense of abandonment for the people in the foster home where he grew up not only verbally but physically abused him telling him repeatedly that his own brothers and sisters did not want him. Living in this environment, where conflict flourished, it became essential for my dad’s emotional survival for him to withdraw – keeping others at a distance because of his inner fear of being hurt.
As I grew up, I didn’t know about all the factors that influenced my dad. Nor did I understand some of his behavior as I was unaware of the pain that still lingered inside him.
My dad’s emotional “demons” reared themselves the most when my sister and I began to date. If he were alive today, he’d be the first to admit he was overly critical of nearly every boy we ever dated, no matter how nice he was. Years later, he admitted to me, in one of our many heart-to-heart discussions, that every time I’d come home with some young man, he would have a great fear welling up inside him that he was losing me. In fact, it took him years to recognize I could love him and another man as well.
Just three days before Dad died suddenly, my husband, Jim, and I went to visit my parents. They lived nearly 1,000 miles from us and it was a long trip – but one I’m so thankful we had, for on that visit, when we were all together, my dad looked at my husband, Jim, and said “Jim, if I had lined up all the men in the world and tried to pick the right one for Dorothy, I couldn’t have chosen anyone better than you.”
Three days later, completely unexpectedly, while out on an evening walk, my father dropped over dead of a massive heart attack, at the age of 58.
As I look back on Daddy’s life, if you asked me, “Was he perfect?” – I’d have to say, “NO!” He could give you a detailed list of his faults. But my father, with all the challenges he faced in his life, became, through the grace of God, the most gentle spirit. And as the years passed, I watched as he tried to open up, to let us in, and to embrace the love we wanted to give him.
Today, we are studying lesson #2 – the second lesson we can learn from the lives of Zelophehad’s five daughters – and it is the lesson of “honor.”
Yesterday, we focused on the quality of boldness. Today we will look at honor, specifically as it applies to the relationship between Zelophehad and his five girls.
As his daughters openly admitted before the entire congregation, their father wasn’t perfect. He died in the wilderness because of his own sin of murmuring at Kadesh.
But as his daughters pointed out, their father did not participate in the rebellion against the Lord in the company of Korah. It is as though these girls wanted everyone to recognize that while “dad” wasn’t perfect and he had made mistakes like everybody else, he had not been in rebellion before the God of heaven and earth. You know, this is one of those places where you just have to say, “I love the Bible!” God’s word is so relevant – for the problem of how we treat and view our parents is just as vital today as it was back in the book of Numbers. These five daughters openly admitted dear old dad had faults, but that didn’t mean his name should not be honored, and that the legacy of his life shouldn’t be carried on by his daughters.
And I’d like to insert a thought here. If you had a father who disrespected or abused you, remember, as a daughter of God, you can live to bring honor to your own name. The legacy of abuse can be broken as your Father in heaven bestows upon you the eternal and ever-flowing blessing of a new name – a new history as a child of the King.
Isn’t it wonderful we can learn from Zelophehad’s girls that “Honoring your father” is a gift we can choose to give, not based on perfection, but on love. As author Fanny Fern so poignantly wrote: “To her the name of father was another name for love.”
Today, if it has been sometime since you said, “I love you – I honor you,” to your father, I urge you to pick up the phone, write a note or just turn and say the words. If your father has passed away like mine, thank your Heavenly Father for the time you shared with your dad. And to those daughters whose father treated them in unspeakable ways, lift your hands heavenward and grasp the hand of your Heavenly Father whose love for you will heal your pain and who is a Father you can honor all the rest of your life.
“There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself.”
John Gregory Brown
Decorations In A Cemetery
What Makes a Dad
“God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
He called it a Dad.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available May 2009