I love my parents with all my heart. I have also had moments when I did not particularly care for them and their choices. Through the ups and downs, the times they stood by me, and the times I felt misunderstood, unsupported, and judged, the laughs, the tears, and the drawn-out silences, one thing has remained true for me: I honor my parents.

We have all had differing experiences with our biological (and other) parents. I am clear that many who may read this may have been abandoned by their parents. I understand that some of you may have even been abused by your parents. I cannot begin to imagine your pain, your trauma, your deep despair, and yet I say, honor those through whom you chose to come into this world. Honor that, at the very least, they made your life possible, however troubled it may seem now. Understand that because of this life they allowed to come through them, you now have the power to become anything you choose. Your past does not determine your future unless you let it.

I have gotten more clarity and appreciation for this gift of life as a parent myself. I understand that my parents did not have to allow me to be born. I recognize that after watching what her first two children did to her body, my mother could have chosen not to have me and to skip the heartburn, the morning (or all-day) sickness, the weight gain, the stretch marks, and lived her life in peace. (Fun fact: My mother was on birth control when I was conceived.) But she didn’t. She braved the stress of being pregnant while raising two young children and completing her Master of Arts degree. To add insult to injury, she told me that I kicked so hard and so incessantly that both my parents were convinced I was a boy. I surprised them at my birth, and I daresay, I have been surprising them ever since, in both good and not so good ways.

Since they brought me into the world, my parents have continued to make sacrifices to create the best life they knew for me. Some of their ideas of who and what I should be may not have aligned with my spirit, but their intentions were always to do me good and not harm me. I know that as much as we want our parents to be perfect, they are not. They will never be perfect, just as you are far from perfect yourself.

As a college freshman, I volunteered for a year at a medical facility for seniors and the impaired. As a pre-med student, I had signed up to work with Kay Halverson, a young woman who, at the time, had spent 18 years bedridden after suffering a stroke at age eighteen as a freshman at the university in which I was enrolled. It was my first experience seeing older people locked up and removed from their families. It was a very depressing experience that has stayed with me.

Some residents of the medical facility made up excuses to get the workers’ attention. They were lonely and wanted attention, even if the attention meant being scolded for making a mess. One lady, in particular, took a liking to me. She appeared to be in her 70s. I could feel her intense loneliness, so I would spend time with her after my official shift. She talked about her children and grandchildren incessantly and often cried as she tried to make sense of their absence in her life. Long-term workers at the facility told me that her family never called, and she had not had visitors in over a year.

One day, that lady began to tell me her life story. She talked about a tough childhood and getting married to escape the abuse in her home. She had met a well-to-do older man. She was young and “fetching.” When he proposed, she was sure her life had changed for the better. It did not quite work out the way she had hoped. Her husband soon became abusive to her. She did not have a job and financially was entirely dependent on him. She did not have much of an education, and she was pregnant. She had nowhere to go. She could not provide for her soon-to-be-born child. These were not the days when single mothers could remake their lives. She decided to stay. She stayed through his abusive words and actions. She stayed through and was even relieved by his numerous and open affairs. As the kids got older, she began to pursue an education. Her husband was amused at her “hobby.”

When her children became teenagers, she started working part-time outside the home. She fell in love with a co-worker. When her husband discovered the affair, he divorced her. Her family disowned her. Her children blamed her for their family’s break-up. Her wealthy, more powerful spouse got the children. Her children were so angry with her that they rebuffed her attempts to spend time with them. She never remarried. She never had other children. She understood her children’s pain and hoped to one day explain to them the loneliness and debasement she had experienced. She wanted them to know she loved them even if she did not always know how to express it. She kept hoping for a second chance. As of the time I stopped volunteering at the facility, her second chance had still not come. She was fast deteriorating. I do not know if she and her children ever reconciled.

This is life. We want what we want from our parents, and sometimes, they are too scarred, too hurt, too desperate, too damaged, too oblivious to see or meet our needs. Honor them anyway. Honor them because what you sow, you reap. Honor them because sometimes parents heal, and their healing often comes through their children. Honor them because we all need grace. Honor them because if you ever have children, you will mess up, and you will want to have modeled for them how to extend grace to others.

I know that honor connotes respect. I can hear you now. You do not know my parents; you do not know what they did to me; I cannot honor them. To honor can mean that you highly esteem or respect a person. However, it also means you show special recognition for a person’s position. Suppose you are in a place where you cannot esteem your parent; honor them by recognizing their role as your parent (biological or otherwise). Recognize them for what they contributed to your life, even if all they contributed was their DNA. This recognition is not a pass for times they failed you. It is not an eraser of the pain you may have experienced. This recognition does not invite them to gaslight or disrupt your life. This recognition is just an acknowledgment that you and God chose them as your parents. To honor them is to free yourself from the bondage and violence of anger. To honor them is to facilitate your healing. To honor them is to free future generations.

Today, I honor my parents. I am so grateful for the innumerable gifts they bestowed on me in how they lived and what they modeled. I thank them for their patience when we did not see eye-to-eye. I am rather passionate, even obstinate when I believe I am on the right side. I honor them for doing their best to show up for all my siblings and me, even when life presented them with significant challenges. I understand the strength it takes to put on a brave face and protect one’s children from the pain one may be experiencing.

Mom and Dad, I forgive you for the times I felt you were not there for me. I ask your forgiveness for all the times I stepped out of line or caused you grief. I honor you for all the sacrifices you have made for me and so many others. For the values you have instilled in me, I honor you. For your all-night vigils praying for me, I honor you. I appreciate that I have praying parents. You just wanted the best for me, and neither of us fully grasped the anointing and calling on my life. For the time I sent someone to the hospital for disrespecting Mommy and left you both with a mess and bills to pay, I honor you. For finally embracing me with all my quirks, I honor you. I honor you for being the phenomenal, generous, brilliant, effervescent, persevering leaders you are. I honor you, Dagogo and Vinolia Fubara. And I love you.

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