Family Is Multi-Generational, Part 2

Share Now

My family has enjoyed English country dancing for a quarter of a century. Here I am with our daughter Mary Evelyn during a break in a dance class in 2006. I’m the one with the broken arm, but that’s another story, the gist of which is this: T-strap sandals, dog gate in our former Notgrass History office at our house with its wooden floor, throwing my leg over instead of opening the gate, kaboom—you get the idea.

And here are Ray and I several years later at our spring ball.

Ray says that this kind of dance is geometry on the floor. That’s a good synopsis. English country dance is simple once you learn the basic steps. Most dances are a combination of these basic steps, rearranged in a variety of ways. To make it even easier, English country dances have callers who call out step by step exactly what to do. One call goes like this: “Forward 2, 3, 4, and back 2, 3, 4.”

In my most recent post, I wrote about how homeschooling helped me to see family as more multi-generational than I might have otherwise. For a long time though, I have felt that while we homeschoolers rightly concentrate on our children and our future generations (the “Forward 2, 3, 4” folks), we have sometimes concentrated too little on the generations who went before us (the “Back 2, 3, 4” folks).

It takes a lot of gumption to homeschool. If we are not careful, this gumption can make us prideful. We might be tempted to look back at our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and think we are much better at parenting than they were. It’s easy to get puffed up and to forget the shoulders on which we stand—those of our mamas and daddies, their parents, and the generations before them. Christian homeschoolers who were not reared in Christian homes themselves may be especially vulnerable to this, but none of us are exempt.

Stories and direct commands in the Old Testament often reminded the ancient Israelites of those who had gone before. They knew that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Unlike those in some other religions, the Israelites did not worship their ancestors, but they did honor them.

Like our own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were flawed human beings. Some relatives are more flawed than others. Some have even been abusive. Those scars are terribly real. We may not be able to honor all of the individuals in the “Back 2, 3, 4” generations in the same way. For our own safety and the safety of our children, it may be necessary to honor some of them from afar, but honor them we must.

When we marry, we also have the privilege of honoring our husband’s “Back-2-3-4.” We also have the privilege of encouraging him as he does that. Over the weekend, two very grateful mothers told me about their close relationships with their daughters-in-law. This is how it should be. It takes a willingness to learn, to adjust, and to love, despite differences in background.

While Jesus makes it clear that we cannot put anyone in our family ahead of Him, He also makes it clear that we must not neglect our parents. Below is part of His message to the Pharisees and some scribes one day:

[Jesus] was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’, and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God); you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

Mark 7:9-13

I take these verses deeply to heart; they convict me. Ray served in churches that were far away from our parents. We didn’t see them as often as we should have during a large portion of our children’s childhoods. That changed for the better when we returned to Tennessee, but I am sorry now for the time all of us missed with Mother, Daddy, and Ray’s dad when our children were younger. We would make different choices today, if we could live those years over again. Perhaps we would have decided always to live closer; but at the very least, we would have come home much more often.

Now that my parents have passed away, I am looking for ways to honor their memory and to honor my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Each of us must look deeply into our hearts and schedules to examine how we are honoring our own “Back 2, 3, 4” folks. Are they lonely? Do they have needs we could meet? Can they count on us? Are we making them a priority? Where are they on our long to-do list? What specific changes do we need to make? How should our priorities change? How should we be spending our days?

Even if we think we are acting in a certain way, our relatives may not realize it. I remember a conversation with my mom some time before my father passed away. She expressed her fear of becoming what was then called a “bag lady.” In other words, she was concerned about her financial situation; she was afraid she might become homeless someday! I was offended when she said that, wondering how Mother could think that I would ever let that happen as long as I had breath. I immediately assured her that I would always take care of her. In reality, Mother did an excellent job of taking care of her finances after Daddy passed away and left a small inheritance to my brother and me. And she never became homeless because, when she could no longer care for herself at home, she came to live with us. Her fears never came to pass, but I am very thankful that she expressed them to me that day and that I could reassure her.

We want our children to honor their father and mother. Now is the time to set them a good example.

Honor your father and mother
(which is the first commandment with a promise),
so that it may be well with you,
and that you may live long on the earth.
Ephesians 6:2-3

Share Now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *