FOR most of us, one of the longest and most important relationships of our lives is the one we have with our parents. From the time when they care for our most basic needs, through our school years and adult years, to the time when we may be caring for some of their needs, the relationship continues to change and both bless and challenge us in new ways. Many have found that the Bible offers practical guidance as well as insights into the deeper meaning of the parent-child relationship.
Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments, one of which is ``Honour thy father and thy mother.''1 This is a straightforward command. Of course, parents must respect and love their children as well. If both parents and children love and obey God, they will naturally love and respect one another and be lovable and worthy of respect! This brings peace and stability to households.
Christ Jesus brought an even deeper perspective to the issue. He obeyed the Commandments literally, but his spiritual understanding far transcended the conventional sense of the parent-child relationship. Understanding his own unique mission as the Son of God, Jesus came to show us that the one God is the true Father and creator of us all. As a child of twelve, when his parents asked why he had not stayed with them on a journey but had remained in the temple, he responded, ``Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?'' He knew he must obey his Father, God; but at the same time, he returned with his parents ``and was subject unto them.''2
Later, Jesus taught a prayer -- the well-known Lord's Prayer. It begins, ``Our Father which art in heaven.''3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, includes a spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, which begins, ``Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious.''4 Understanding that we are all actually children of one Father-Mother can play a vital role in bringing harmony to our relationships with our parents.
As we recognize more of our own spiritual nature as children of God -- and really begin to feel this reality through prayer -- we can find increasing freedom from the false sense that our parents' makeup must determine our own nature. Or that what they are doing, or did in the past, must determine our happiness and success. A growing spiritual sense of identity can bring healing to an overly protective or overly dependent attitude on the part of parent or child. Defensiveness, envy, fear, can be dispelled. Knowing that our parents are just as much children of God as we are shows us that we all have equal opportunity to rely on and respond to His loving care, to avail ourselves of the God-given qualities of our true, spiritual individuality, such as goodness, purity, intelligence, joy, strength.
A maturing understanding of the brotherhood and equality of all as children of God opens the way for us to find meaningful, true friendship with our parents -- friendship that breaks free of stereotypical family relationships, which often include misunderstanding, resentment, or simply the feeling of being divided by age. Such friendship is possible because our spiritual status as fellow children of God is a fundamental truth of our lives.
Clearly, there may be instances in which even speaking of friendship between parents and their offspring seems unrealistic, beyond all reasonable hope. Yet the truth of everyone's actual, spiritual selfhood does provide a basis for hope and underlies the eventual resolution of all conflict.
I've been told by my mother that when she held me for the first time after I was born, she felt a strong sense that we were sisters. My mother was and is a student of Christian Science, and she saw that man is in truth God's loved child, not the offspring of mortals, and that therefore all are in a true spirtual sense brothers and sisters. This sense of spiritual sisterhood has remained constant over the years. Throughout my life we have both felt strongly that we are friends, both God's children. We've shared insights and laughs, supported each other at difficult times by helping each other turn to our common Parent, God, who maintains His all-harmonious spiritual creation.
I obeyed and respected my parents as I was growing up, and I truly do honor them. They've been responsible, loving, helpful parents, but they've also considered me free to follow God's guidance, for they recognize that all God's children respond directly to their creator. This is deeply and inevitably true of all. This has forged a strong relationship, free of fighting or resentment.
The fact that we are the offspring of God, who is Spirit, means that our true individuality is spiritual and perfect, not a flawed creature of the flesh. Understanding this truth -- and actually living our God-given qualities -- can free us from family difficulties. And it can open the way to the healing of physical and other troubles, increasingly bringing to light the all-harmonious creation of our Father-Mother, God.
1Exodus 20:12. 2Luke 2:49, 51. 3Matthew 6:9. 4Science and Health, p. 16.
BIBLE VERSE: Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us
Ephesians 5:1, 2