Exodus 20:12: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
This Commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments to carry a promise and I truly feel that it means more than just long life here on earth. I think it also means a fulfilled and happy life. This does not mean that everything is going to go smooth, that never happens, but it does lend itself to inter happiness I think.
As I was growing up Dad and I often butted heads on things; we were both very strong willed and opinionated and would sometimes get in some heated arguments. Dad, being Dad, usually won those arguments! I remember one day in the milk house I smarted off big time and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground outside, having been kicked out the door by Dad’s foot. I am sure they would probably put him in jail for that these days but, in reality, it served me right. I don’t remember exactly what I said but I did know that it was not what I should have said.
One of the biggest challenges our society faces today is that we do not have strong, Christian men leading our families and teaching their children how to honor themselves, their mothers, their siblings and their fathers with respect. This leads to a total breakdown of the family structure. God is very clear on how the family needs to be structured and the man is to be the leader in the family. When this happens in a Christian manner with the father taking his wife and children to church; the facts are that 83% of the children will be true to the faith. Our society today sees so many families that the father is absent entirely and the teaching of respect is not there. Many times, we are focusing on helping the children and mothers and that is good, but what about the forgotten dads of the world. We need to be in constant prayer about how the church can reach the forgotten dad that is only a father in a biological sense. The numbers are that if a mother takes the children to church only 18% of the children will remain true to the faith, hence the great divide!
My Dad, A. D. Harrell, was a strong man in a man’s world and he taught me at an early age to respect that. He was not a Bible thumper but he always took us to church whenever there were services going on at the little church on the hill, Pleasant Grove Church of the Brethren. Many times, over the years we would wash each other’s feet at the Lord’s Supper. In that church that was part of Communion Service. The only vacation we got to take as children was to get a week off from the dairy during the summer to go to church camp, Camp Carmel, in Linville.
When the man leads, the son will usually follow if the man leads with love. Along with following, the son will learn to honor his father and mother. The father must always strive to be true to the Lord, his wife and his children. One thing Dad always taught was that you, as a man, always treated women, especially your mother, with respect. The wrath of God and Dad would come down on me if I did not show respect for my mother and my sisters. I also taught that to my children. We as men must take the responsibility square on our shoulders to teach these principles to each of our children.
Another thing the man should teach is how much fun it is to spend time together doing fun things, not just all work. We worked so hard growing up on the dairy that DSS would probably invoke the child labor laws today, if we did it. Our days started at 4:30 each morning and usually went until about 8:30 in the evening. Dad taught school, coached basketball at Tipton Hill High School, and we ran the dairy along with growing burley tobacco. There was not a lot of time left, but somehow Dad always found time to take us hunting and fishing, we would go on family picnics and do fun stuff. He and Mother were masters at making fun things out of the day to day things that went on. We would go to fields to pick up rocks after the ground was plowed and he and Mother would talk with us about looking for arrowheads; the person that found the most or the best would get some little prize and that kept us interested. Mother was not just a yes person and they both took great pride in the family, and in making sure we were headed down the right path. It takes a man and a woman, working together, to make a family that grows and teaches the children in the admonition of the Lord. The structure that God created is the only one that will ever truly work.
In families, today the respect for the parents too many times is entirely missing; in the holiday season, far too many elderly mothers and fathers are forgotten, and this again is because of the breakdown of respect being taught in the homes. Our school teachers cannot right this, I am sorry to say this but in many cases our education system is teaching the very opposite of traditional family values. Our pastors cannot correct this from the pulpit alone, we, the people, must be living our lives as an example to our children, remaining true to our spouses until death do us part and showing our children how to live, not just telling them. As the old saying goes, our actions speak louder than our words.
Some of my favorite times have been spent with Mother and Dad and my wife on hunting trips together in Wisconsin. The bonds that were built have stood the test of time and will always be treasured in my mind. Memories that created lasting respect and honor. There were years that Barbara and I could not afford to make the trip, and Mother and Dad would help with the expenses. Loyalty was developed that went beyond words and hopefully Barbara and I have passed and are passing that loyalty along. For the past several years I have been taking sons and grandsons on the same trips we used to take with my parents. Barbara has been gracious enough to stay home and look after my mother who lives with us now and requires 24-7 care. The bond that she and mother have with each other is truly amazing and was formed over all the years of doing things together.
In 1990 Barbara and I decided to sell our business in Burlington, NC and move back home. When we made this decision to come back home to the farm I told Barbara that I was not going to fuss with Dad but was going back to help him and enjoy his and mother’s company. For the next 20 years we worked together on the farm, hunted together and worshiped together. I think we had one argument in that 20 years and it did not last but a short time. I always told Dad to do whatever he wanted to do on the farm and if he fell over out on the farm I would pick him up and bring him home. That happened one day right before his 96th birthday and I carried him home, two days later he had gone on to be with the Lord. I promised him shortly before that that I would take care of Mother for as long as she lived, and we are blessed to be doing this. I know circumstances are different in many cases but we as children, parents, grandparents and great grandparents should always strive to honor our fathers and mothers in all that we do or say. Again, this is the only commandment with a promise. Please remember and pay special attention to the elder members of your family this holiday season, they are so special. Merry Christmas to all.