When I wanted to ask Paula to marry me, I didn’t do so spontaneously. There was something that I had to do first. While I knew she was God’s choice for me I needed to get the approval of my parents (and hers) before I asked her to marry me.
They had earned that right and I wanted to get their perspective. Even though I had a good relationship with Dad and Mom it was not easy to do so; it was humbling. At this point in my life I was making almost all of my decisions and was (in my view) emotionally mature enough to make this one.
A sense of the sobriety of the occasion made me carefully prepare my approach and conversation with them; I still remember it. We talked and I asked them what they thought about my being married and asked for their blessing.
We talked about whether I could support a family financially, how I knew Paula was the one God had for me, and other related matters. And they gave me their approval.
In previous posts I listed questions that when answered result in wise decisions. In sequential order they are:
- What does the Bible say?
- What do my counselors say?
- What do my authorities say?
The third question, which caused me to talk to my parents about being married, is the topic of this post. Typically these are our most neglected advisers, but they bring a perspective and value that others cannot.
The Bible teaches that we are to respect our authorities, especially those older than us – “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32)
The word “hoary” is an old English word that means “white or gray”. Of course, it has the idea of one that is in their senior years. God commands us to honor these people in our lives. One way we show honor is by seeking their counsel.
There are three structures of authority mentioned in the Bible: the home, government, and the church. God uses them to provide order, direction, and even to correct us.
I am not saying that we are to do everything our authorities tell us to do. We are not to contradict God’s Word when any counsel or authority would oppose it (Acts 5:29), even if it means we suffer consequences for it (I Peter 2:20).
So, when an authority is in alignment with the Bible, what are the benefits of seeking their advice? There are three compelling reasons:
- Authorities have wisdom. What a waste to fail to learn from one that has already paid a price to discover things that would help you. Someone said, “A wise man learns from his experiences, but a wiser man learns from experiences of others”.
Sometimes their wisdom is what not to do. We learn most from our authorities just by observing their lives.
My brother, Hoss, wanted to buy a vehicle and went to Dad for his thoughts. After talking about it for a while Dad asked him a question, “Well, son how much is your car payment now?” Hoss said, “I don’t have owe anything; it’s paid for”.
Then Dad asked him a more penetrating question, “Do you want it or do you need it?”
Hoss told me that immediately he knew the answer; he didn’t need it, but he really wanted it. He bought the SUV and later had trouble with it. Our authorities have wisdom from a bigger picture than we do.
- Authorities are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. They know things about you that you aren’t aware of yourself. Parents and employers see character deficiencies to which we are blind. Even when we know them, we tend to underestimate how serious they are.
Parents that have lived with you for over two decades can predict problems in marriage based on patterns of your life. How foolish to reject their advice, or not to seek it at all.
- Authorities are given from God to protect us. Their advice not only assists us in making a specific choice, but also can determine the quality of your life. When I fail to take advantage of these relationships I will reap painful consequences. Even sadder, they are unnecessary consequences.
Over thirty years ago Dad drove me into the parking lot of a church and we talked about what he knew about it. I asked him some questions about what he thought about some decisions I was making in my life at that time. It’s the church where I pastor now.
Dad passed away in July, 2008. I’m glad I got his wisdom. Even more so, I’m glad I honored him by seeking his advice.
Those that know me know I am not good in the areas of technology or mechanics. My father, however, excelled in working on vehicles, it was his profession.
Paula and I needed a car and after searching for six weeks I found one. Both of us liked it and it would suit our needs. The dealer said we could keep it overnight and after taking a test drive the first stop I made was at my parents’ home. Dad came outside and looked at it, drove it and let me know what he thought. We bought the vehicle.
When this happened I was thirty years old. Though I was not under his authority, he had earned the right to be part of my chain of counsel and, in this area, I gave him veto power. He simply knew more about it than I did. It would have been foolish for me not to do so.
This is one reason many adults have an emotional distance between them and their elderly parents; they have failed to seek their advice at strategic and important times in their lives. The parents had some helpful information to pass on and could have saved their (adult) children some heartache. Now, they feel shut out of their lives, especially if the failure to seek direction traces back to their teenage years.
Here’s a scary thought, your children will tend to treat you the way you have treated your parents. In that regard you are writing the quality of your own future by the way you’re treating your parents today.
Are you facing an important decision today? What do your authorities think about the issue? Have you considered speaking to your father, your pastor, or others at work that are over you and and know you well? This is part of discovering wisdom from people that, sadly, is most often ignored.