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Honor the Dishonorable

By Jill Jackson
In Hope & Healing
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“Honor thy parents.”

My spiritual vagrancy was born within the confines of this commandment. My parents abused me; they still try to. God, what were You thinking? How could You so recklessly insert this directive in with some fundamental commandments? Weren’t You concerned it would fall into the wrong hands and lead to some brutal outcomes?

Clearly, I had the most warped understanding of this commandment and why He had it etched in into stone. It launched me into what seemed like a timeless and central struggle in life. I resisted for ages until I even came to terms that I was struggling at all.

I loved my parents and I still do; most importantly, I have forgiven my parents. The mystery behind this confession does not evade me anymore and neither will I fight it. My heart was built to love, which also means it is vulnerable to pain. Their grooming strategies included shaming, guilting, rejection and caning. It took me months of counseling to identify corporal punishment as physical abuse. Rejection distorts what is meant to be unconditional love into conditioned bondage. And so I learned and became well-programmed to use the rejection strategy on myself. I was quickly filled with resentment for God. Psalm 139 and 23 were just beautiful poetry. God messed up because He gave me parents that were so wrong for me. He left me to experience trauma that stunted me psychologically and socially. He stood by watching as I bore the yoke of my parents’ shame. He did nothing when I tried to slit my wrists two feet away from my parents’ bedroom or when I swallowed a bunch of Tylenol. Or did He?

I should have died the first time, or the second time. I should have died trying to live beneath the weight of all the shame, guilt and rejection. I should not have been married to the love of my life. I should not be living the life I have today but I am, It’s all because of His redemptive interventions in my life, time after time. A few years ago, I had become physically sick and was on a fast track to metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, at the age of 38. I knew something had to change in a big way or I was going to die an early death. He intervened again. He surrounded me with people who spoke life into me, who challenged me to expose every lie I believed about myself and my parents as well as the excuses I made for myself and others. And there among some God sent friends, therapists, mentors, books, sermons…I could not deny Him any longer. I could not deny who He says I am and still look people in the eye. And so I blasted the lie into oblivion by saying what I did on a microphone in public, “My God is not a sadist! And I am loved, perfectly loved.”

So what of this commandment? “Honor thy parents”? How do I honor those who do the dishonorable? If I wanted my shredded self to be knit whole again, I knew blame-shifting had to cease. I had to ask the right questions and wait on God to answer. Meanwhile, I needed to allow the grace that was so freely given to me to pour into the very depths of my wounds. The question was no longer, “God why do they trample on my heart so cruelly?” Rather, it was “God why do I allow someone other than You to tell me who I am or declare my worth?” Because readers, there will always be someone ready and waiting to sever you from your God given identity as an adopted heir of Yahweh. And that someone is much larger than parents or any of your trespassers – it is he who defied God Himself, Satan, the prosecutor, Nakash, whatever you want to call him. He and his fallen angels orchestrate discord into relationships and mangle our psyche into something grotesque.

Watered and dead
You scattered salt in our earth;
Poisoned our veins with viscous disdain.
Longing for relief from cruel dearth,
You left us to scorn in endless pain.
No one knew that behind the walls;
Were tormented souls chained to lies.
Their mangled shapes haunted the halls,
As distortion was fed into malnourished lives.
If you looked back you would see;
The putrid death that is your legacy.

I started writing poems about eight weeks into my time in the Mending the Soul program at IBC. The last time I had written poetry was in high school. Unclogging my emotional pipes helped lift the dross that resided within my sense of self. When I first wrote the poem above, I had my father in mind, but as I have allowed God to nurture the much-needed growth the subject of my poem no longer was my father but man’s enemy: himself.

Timothy Keller in his sermon “Parents and Children” states that honoring your parents does not mean you love them, obey them, or trust them. He goes on to say “If you don’t distinguish this, your conscience will kill you.” Instead, honor is a decision to treat your parents with dignity, courtesy and to provide long term loyalty towards their best interest as God would have it. You do not enable them in behavior unworthy of them. I decided to read Exodus 20 and I read it like I never read it before. It dawned on me that one cannot honor parents bypassing or hurdling over the first three commandments, which is to have no other gods but Yahweh, worship no idols (be it cultural, professional, social), or take His name in vain. I have to honor God, acknowledge His steadfast love and divine purpose for me through and through as I honor my parents. For those of us who experienced parental abuse, this could mean placing some carefully thought out boundaries, or no engagement at all. You honor your abusive parents by not letting them disgrace you or manipulate you. You honor your parents by not throwing ugliness back at them or reacting in anger. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not leave us untended. We have the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and guard our hearts for it remains the wellspring of life.

God’s faithfulness and mercies have been abundant in my journey of restoration and healing. Unlike many of us would want to believe, healing is a very painful and tedious process; nevertheless, it is crucial to wholesomeness.

Mending the Soul is a ministry to those who have struggled with all forms of abuse, from emotional neglect to sexual abuse. Shelter from the Storm is a deep dive into sexual abuse, incest and sexual trauma in a small group setting. Both of these groups start the last week of August, and you can register at www.irvingbible.org/supportgroups. If you have experienced sexual exploitation or trafficking, there is an ongoing group specifically for you. Please contact Tiffany at [email protected]. If you have questions about which class might be best for you, contact Tricia at [email protected].

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