Love Carved in Stone
Lesson Four — Words of Love: Honor the Life-Givers
The Fifth Word
Primary Scripture: Exodus 20:12, and Luke 9:57-62
It Takes a Crash
Several years ago while I was leading a retreat on the Ten Words a young woman came up to me after my presentation of this Word. She was agitated and shaking so visibly that I thought her bones might disconnect from their joints. She told me how the critical voice of her mother played across her mind constantly like a loop at the bottom of the TV news. When she seemed almost spent she said, “How do I honor my mother without dishonoring me? How do I honor her when she is old and has not changed and there is not one thing that I will miss about her when she is gone?” She took a deep breath, burst into tears and through the sobs said, “What if my children feel the same way about me?”
Of all of the Words, this Word has produced the most profound emotions in people I’ve met. For some of us who have stable and loving families, this one is a no brainer. For others of us it is anything but. Are we to honor those who are often dishonorable and, if so, how?
I have pondered this question for nearly 10 years now. Here is what I have come to believe: one of the most profound ways we can honor painful parents for the life they have given us is by choosing to stop the cycle of pain in our own lives and by not passing it along. If our parents struggled with addictions, we honor them by taming our own. If they struggled with narcissism, we honor them by developing compassion. If they struggled with violence, we honor them by claiming inner and outer peace. This is not easy work, but it is Spirit-work, and necessary for the beloved community to survive and thrive. In that way, we find blessing not only in what we receive, but also in what we release. The survival of the community is at the heart of this Word.
Several years ago my husband, Robbie, and I visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near San Diego, California. We took a special Cart Safari that allowed us a close-up look at some of the animals out in the Asian and African habitats. There, bunched up together under a sturdy shade tree, rested about six female rhinoceroses. Our guide told us that they were a part of a conservation project to help to save the species.
For years, rhinos steadfastly refused to breed in captivity. Every possible enticement was used to encourage it, but none of the healthy breeding pairs produced. Finally, by happenstance, they learned that female rhinos, when deprived of the company of other females, will suppress their hormones so as not to conceive. They do this because in the wild they need to have several adult females with them to protect a calf from predators. I mean, why go through an 18-month gestation just to have the little guy gotten by a lion while still a baby? Without a ‘sisterhood’ they would have none of it. When several females bonded into a group, called a crash (don’t you love it), then they felt safe to conceive, brought their hormones up to speed, and had at it. More than 50 endangered rhinoceros babies have been born this way.
And there they were, a crash of rhino sisters under a tree in the summer sun, each taking a turn looking after the one young calf. Huge funny looking things with 800 pound heads under a shade tree taking turns babysitting. It takes a crash to raise a rhino.
Word Five reminds us that we cannot go it alone. We need the wisdom, the power, and the protection of the community in order to survive. In the very heart of creation lies the truth that without community, without others to share the load, without a tribe to call our own—ones who know all, see all, and accept all—the tender young shoots of our own lives would be too vulnerable to survive, too.
Without the life-givers, everything we are created to bring forth is stopped in its tracks. It is a blessing when our families can play that role. Even when they cannot, God provides life-givers for us in other ways. It is crucial for our own well-being, and that of future generations, that we give honor and time to those ones. Why? Because at the heart of Word Five: it takes a crash.
Eugenia Anne Gamble
Author of the 2019–2020 PW/Horizons Bible Study
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