I celebrated my 26th birthday this last Saturday. And, though I am a little freaked out by the fact that I am now officially closer to 30 than to 20, on the whole I can only feel a deep sense of thankfulness: I am thankful to be 26, to have lived another year in the beautiful sunshine of California, to be constantly learning and (hopefully) growing, to deepen relationships with my friends and family, to know and to share God’s love, to look forward to the future with hope and excitement. Who do I thank for all of this abundant goodness? My Father in Heaven, of course, the Giver of all gifts and grace and light. And then I thank my parents, for welcoming me into this world and for not abandoning me for a day during my life in it.
Lately it seems rather in vogue to focus on all the ways our parents messed us up. We are highly sensitive to the emotional baggage that each of us procures from the people who raised us. In many ways, I am thankful for this openness. We need to be able to acknowledge and then talk honestly about our issues if we’re ever going to be able to work through them. Loving but honest assessment of our formation, of the influence our parents have upon us, and the effects that they create in us for good or ill is essential.
My mom and dad know they weren’t perfect parents. They know they made tons of mistakes and bequeathed me with my own collection of issues to carry into adulthood. We’ve spent hours in counseling working through our hurts—countless more hours at home, talking and crying and sometimes yelling our way through the disappointments and hurts and failures and grievances and misunderstandings that we’ve collected between us over the years.
As so often happens in life, the bad gets more attention than the good. We’ve hashed out our wrongs until we’re blue in the face, we know our issues as well as the streets we drive mechanically to work each day. But it’s the Good I don’t want to overlook: the millions of acts of faithfulness and love that my parents performed over the years. They got out of bed and went to work. They prepared meals. They disciplined me even when they were tired and could’ve just let my bad behavior go. They read to me at night. They constantly forgave me, and trained me, and gave me new opportunities. They protected me and guarded my innocence. They taught me to know the difference between right and wrong, to love God, to love learning, and not to fear hard work. They loved me, and never ever gave up on their love for God, each other, or for my sisters and me. Sometimes it was brutally hard to keep going, but breaking up our family or not being there for their kids was not an option.
And that’s the foundation that my life is built upon. My mom and dad gave me something solid to stand on as I grew. Our problems will persist and we will persist in working through them for as long as is necessary (most likely a lifetime)—but it is the solid foundation of love built on daily acts of sacrifice and commitment that allows us to survive all of the hurts we inevitably inflict upon each other. It is the goodness, the kindness, and the faithfulness of our parents that allows us the possibility to grow up to be confident, healthy, whole persons who can give of themselves to help a broken world. The steadfast love of God and our parents and the people placed as mentors in our lives enables us to live committed lives of our own–remaining faithful each day to the love and work to which we have been called in this life.