Keeping the Plates Spinning
About the Guest
You've loved them, you've hated them, and sometimes you didn't understand them at all. Who are they? Your parents, of course! Dennis Rainey helps you put your parents in proper perspective.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
You’ve loved them, you’ve hated them, and sometimes you didn’t understand them at all.
Keeping the Plates Spinning
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The Fifth Commandment does not come with an expiration date.
We’ll talk about honoring your parents today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, I have to say, “If I were going to make a list of your life messages, this”—I’m trying to think—“top ten—this would be top five.” Don’t you think?
Bob: This message—on the importance of honoring your parents—I remember the first time I heard it because I had just—you and I had just sat down for the first time to talk about FamilyLife Today. This was in the summer of 1992. You gave me eight cassette tapes of you and Barbara doing the Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem conference.
Bob: And this message was one of the eight messages on those cassette tapes.
Dennis: —about honoring your parents—that is exactly right.
Bob: I remember listening to it. I thought, “That’d make a good radio program.”
[Laughter] And in fact, the first week we were on the air—this was one of the messages.
Dennis: You know—you are right. I had forgotten about that.
Bob: The first—it was Wednesday and Thursday, the first week in November of 1992—this message was featured on FamilyLife Today. But actually, the message goes back—maybe, a decade before FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Well, actually, Bob, it could go back two decades—to the early 1970s—when I worked with high school students, all of the country. Even then, this message was germinating as I talked to young people/ teenagers about why they should honor their mother and father. It would get really, really quiet in there.
And even then, I felt like I was tapping into something—in this fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments—that wasn’t being talked about then—and certainly, still isn’t being talked about, now, some four decades later.
Bob: Well, back in 1994, you wrote a book called The Tribute—
where you challenged all of us to honor our parents. Now, it’s the 20th anniversary of the launch of that book. I’ve heard you say that you’ve gotten more feedback from this book than maybe any other book you’ve ever written.
Dennis: I have a file—maybe more than a foot tall—of letters and tributes—copies of tributes that people have sent in and stories of how they have taken the time—at an anniversary, at a birthday, at Christmas, or for no good reason just other than just to honor their parents—have written a tribute. Many of them have put it in a frame and had a ceremony where they read it to their parents.
It’s fascinating. I was with a young lady, not too long ago. She had just found out her dad had been diagnosed with a disease that was going to take his life in a matter of weeks. I put this book in her hand—I pressed it in there, and I said, “No regrets. No regrets.”
She said: “I’m taking this back, and my brother and I are going to write tributes. We’re going to read them to him while he is alive.”
And it may mean, as I talk about in the book—it may mean you have to deal with some stuff in order to get to the subject of honor; but I think that’s what God had in mind when he came up with this fifth commandment, out of the Ten Commandments.
Bob: The book on honoring your parents has now been revised and updated. The 20th Anniversary Edition of the book is being released this week. It’s now called The Forgotten Commandment because, in fact, this is one of those overlooked commandments among the Ten.
Dennis: It is. And I think it needs to be dusted off today because we’ve been bashing and blaming our parents and been victims of our parents’ poor choices and mistakes. And by the way, they do make mistakes.
There are a lot of things parents have done that they should ask forgiveness for, but this commandment doesn’t have any conditions. The fifth commandment just says, “Honor your mother and your father that your days may be long in the land that the Lord Your God gives you.”
Bob: Well, let’s listen to how you tackled this subject—back more than two decades ago—as you challenged an audience of married couples to fulfill the fifth commandment and to honor their father and their mother.
Dennis: Perhaps, some of you have seen me share an illustration about a man. He used to come on the Ed Sullivan program a number of years ago. It was a man who would bring out some plates. I can remember, as a young lad in southwest Missouri, seeing this guy come out with a large stack of plates and a table that would be almost as long as the stage. After Ed Sullivan had introduced him, he would, then, take one of those plates and a stick that was underneath it—
and he would begin to spin that plate and spin that stick. Do you remember? He’d get that plate spinning and get it going. Then he would move to a second plate. He would get it spinning and going with that stick. He’d spin it—and had two, and three, and four, and five. Finally, he would have about six or seven plates going.
I can still recall, as a young lad, screaming and yelling at this guy because of what was happening to the first plate. Do you remember what it was doing, at that point? It was beginning to wobble. It was as though he could hear me screaming—all the way from southern Missouri to that New York or Madison Avenue studio—because he would turn around and run back and grab that stick and spin it and it get off. He’d go with eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve.
By then, plate number two was wobbling. The rest of the—really, the act was this guy going back and forth, spinning these plates—I don’t know—as many as 15 to 20 plates on this table—
running back and forth. At just the moment you knew this guy couldn’t keep them all spinning, he’d start at one end of that table—and he gathered them all up—just like he was going to the cupboard.
Well, I think that act is a lot like what takes place in marriage. We meet someone we love. We decide we’ll become one, and we get married. So, we get over here; and we start spinning this little plate called marriage. We start playing house. It’s fun to spin this plate, and there aren’t any distractions—there’s just Barbara and me. We’re enjoying spinning this plate. It gets all the attention, and it’s humming along and moving out.
But then, some things begin to change. There’s an increase in job responsibility. Then, there is perhaps a move involved. Then, there are new friends and responsibilities at church—all begin to crowd in and spin. What used to get 100 percent of all of our efforts, back here, when it was by itself—
marriage—now, as we get several of our plates going—now, only gets an occasional maintenance spin. [Laughter] It just kind of gets the leftovers; doesn’t it?
Then, something very fascinating occurs—that really has a great impact on this first plate. Something comes along. Some of these come along. [Laughter] Some little saucers come along. And you know, you can spin one of these little rascals here, but they take an awful lot of energy to spin one of these. And that plate called “marriage”—now, well, it just needs an occasional spin—not even a maintenance spin now. And you get several of these little saucers going—and all of a sudden, you’ve got chaos—is what you’ve got. [Laughter]
But then, it’s interesting what occurs to this little saucer. You know what they become? I’m going to show you what they become. [Laughter]
That’s a teenager. That’s right. [Laughter] And a teenager—some days is a kid / some days they’re an adult. They amaze you at some of the things they can do—perspectives they have. And on other days, they’re somewhere in between. And you can spin these, but they take an awful lot of energy to spin these.
You know, there’s one other pair of plates, though, that I believe is having a great impact— not only on this plate called “marriage” / these little plates called “kids”—but upon our lives, as well. It’s a pair of plates that I think are being ignored today.
I want to show those to you. It’s a pair of plates that owe their value to their age. It’s our parents. It always gets real quiet in the room when I bring these out.
Why do you suppose that is? Because we immediately identify that our parents are people that have needs. As we’re spinning all these plates in life, there’s a pair of plates, way down at the end, that in many of our cases suffer today from child abuse of a different kind. You see it is child-to-parent abuse—neglect.
Whether your parents are alive or no longer living, I believe, this message has application to each and every life in this room because there’s an action point that I’m going to call upon you to make—whether your parents are still living or whether they have already gone on to be with the Lord. You see, I think how we reflect and respond to our parents today—and even the memory of them, if they’re gone—is passed on to our kids. It can poison the legacy that we leave.
Today, I believe one of the major problems is that there is a lack of honor being given, on our part, to our parents. There is too much distance, I believe, as a result—by the parents, back to their grandkids. I cannot imagine why most grandparents would not want to be involved with their ultimate legacy—and be passing on values, and character, and commitment—having the time to do so, at a point in their lives, when their parents sometimes can’t.
But I wonder if the reason why our parents are not involved is because we, as children, have not given them the honor that God has called us and commanded us to give in the Ten Commandments.
Plato has said, “What is honored in a land will be cultivated there.” What do we honor today?—youth.
We don’t honor gray hair. We honor youth. Our parents are in need, more than ever today, of exalting and uplifting that one of the Ten Commandments that tells us, as children, to honor our parents.
Roman numeral one, in your outline—“Your mate’s parents have had the most profound influence on his life for good or for bad.” Virgil wrote, some 30 years before the time of Christ, “As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines.” There has been many a little sapling that has grown up in a home where your parents didn’t do it all right, as we’ll talk about in here. And the twig was bent.
Today, because we have been hatched out of this Freudian psychology—which tells us to blame everything on our past and assume no responsibility for the present—
we’re looking at all these little bents. We are blaming our parents for the mistakes they’ve made and missing one of the primary opportunities to see our parents honored in their later years of life.
The problem is that many expected their parents to be perfect. Some of us have put our parents under some unreal expectations. We expected them to be what only our Heavenly Father could be—what only God could provide. And so, we have punished them, as adults.
A second point—“Some adult children lack compassion for their parents’ struggles.” Putting it bluntly—as children, we are too detached from our parents. We are in need of esteeming them, valuing them, honoring them. Putting it another way—we’re selfish. You’re looking at a primo example of it.
I think I was 18 years of age before I ever really told my parents, from the heart, the following words: “I love you.” I can still remember the day. It was a hot summer day—the end of the summer in August. I was about to go away to college. I remember the car was packed, and they walked outside. I don’t know what moved me to do it, other than maybe God prompting me—even though my life was really not in His hands, at that point of my life—because I had been horribly selfish.
But I remember reaching out my hand and grabbed my dad’s callused hand. I shook it. I looked him in the eye; and I said, “Dad, I love you.” I looked Mom in the eye, and hugged her, and said, “Mom, I love you.” That point marked a beginning point in my life when I began to relate to my parents as people who had needs of being told.
And I wrote my mom a couple of love letters while I was at college.
A third point—“Many today are still looking for parental approval they never received as a child.” We’re not too detached—we are too attached. We have never left—as it commands us to do in Genesis 2:24, “Leave, cleave, become one flesh.” Before a union can be established—called “marriage”—we must leave the other union.
So, “Dennis, I left, physically, years ago.” Well, that may be true, physically; but did you leave, emotionally? You see, some people don’t cut the apron strings—they merely lengthen them—being dependent upon them for money, emotional support, or acceptance. You will never experience all that God has for you in your marriage until you have clipped that apron string and you have cleaved to one another—but you have clipped that apron string in the context of honor.
Now, why is this important? It’s important, not only to make your marriage work, but it’s also important, I think, to leave, within the context of honoring your parents. You see, some parents can be manipulative. They don’t want you to leave. They’re dependent upon you for a purpose—trying to build those apron strings back into your life—when you’re trying to clip them. If that’s the case, you need to be careful and get counsel because your parents can try to control your life, as an adult. They can have a negative impact on your ability to build your marriage today.
Well, point D—“As a result, many resent their parents for their mistakes.” Dr. Paul Meier, one of the founders of the Minirth-Meier Clinic in Dallas, Texas, says that
95 percent of all Christians carry some anger or bitterness toward their parents. That’s an astounding statistic.
Too many of us expend far too much emotional energy, casting blame on them when we should be expending our emotional energy on taking responsibility for what we can do right.
Bob: Well, we have been listening to a much younger Dennis Rainey. [Laughter] Who was that kid we were listening to there?
Dennis: I—[Laughter]—you know, a lot of water under the bridge since then; but—
Bob: That’s a life message for you.
Dennis: —it is a life message. It’s one that I would wish I could reach through the radio, right now, and just kind of imprint on the heart of every listener—whether young or old: “Find a way, while your mom and dad are still alive, to take honor home.”
Bob: Well, and you speak to that in the book that you wrote called The Forgotten Commandment, which is now out in a 20th Anniversary Edition. I would hope that a whole new generation of readers—
—a whole new generation of young moms and dads—would get a copy of this book and give some careful, prayerful thought to what their assignment is in terms of honoring their parents.
We’ve got copies of The Forgotten Commandment: Experience the Power of Honoring Your Parents, the 20th Anniversary Edition of this book by Dennis Rainey. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book. It is just off the press, and we’re excited to send a copy to you. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order The Forgotten Commandment by Dennis Rainey. Or you can order when you call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”—1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329.
You know, the conversation that we’re having this week about honoring your parents is really a conversation about your legacy.
And this month, here at FamilyLife Today, we are hoping that many of our regular listeners will join in the legacy of FamilyLife Today and become Legacy Partners. A Legacy Partner is somebody who helps support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, on a monthly basis, with a regular donation—somebody who prays for us regularly. If you are not one of our Legacy Partners, our hope is that, during the month of March, we might see 20 new families in every state, where FamilyLife Today is heard, join with us and become Legacy Partners.
You could be one of the 20 in your state. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE.” And the information about becoming a Legacy Partner can be found there. We’re going to send you a welcome kit that’s got some CDs in it. It’s got a book of date ideas for couples; and it’s got our brand-new Legacy Partner Cookbook, with recipes—
from Dennis and Barbara, from Mary Ann and me, from the FamilyLife team, and from Legacy Partners, all across the country. This welcome kit is our gift to you when you become a new Legacy Partner. We hope you’ll check that out.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I CARE;” or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’d like to become a Legacy Partner.” And please pray for us that we might see a thousand new Legacy Partners join with this ministry during the month of March. Legacy Partners provide the financial stability that is needed for this ministry. We’re praying that God will raise up some new Legacy Partners. So, join us in that, if you would.
Now, I think it would be a good idea for our listeners to hear how you put into action this command to honor your father and your mother.
Dennis: You talking about the tribute I wrote to my mom?
Bob: You wrote a tribute to your mom. When did you write this for her?
Dennis: In the early ‘80s. Back then, I went to a typesetter—
went to a typesetter and had them typeset my words. My mistake was—Bob, I put it in a frame; and I shipped it to my mom. It arrived in the middle of winter. I still remember the phone conversation with my mom. She got on the phone; and she goes: “Is that about me?—your mean, old mom?” She was kind of chuckling; and she said, “That was really something.” She said, “I’ve hung it above my dinner table, here, where I start every day with breakfast.”
In the years ahead, Bob, she would make the phone repair man read it. She’d make the plumber, the relatives in our family [Laughter]—everybody had to read that tribute.
Bob: She was a widow—
Dennis: She was.
Bob: —and had been a widow for almost a decade, at this point.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. I think she read that thing—at least she told me—she read it repeatedly. She said:
“There is a lot about growing old that just kind of discourages you and reminds you of where you’ve failed. And to have those words in front of me, reminding me of what I did right, was extremely precious.”
Bob: Well, let’s listen to what you wrote to your mom.
[Previously Recorded Tribute]
When she was 35, she carried him in her womb while he did his best to kick her ribs out. After nine long months, he was finally born breach—a difficult and dangerous birth. As a child, she nursed him through, at least, two dozen colds, sore throats, bouts with the flu, nausea, chicken pocks, mumps, and measles. Her steamy hot potato soup was always best to eat propped up against a pillow in bed.
Her narrow but tidy kitchen always attracted a crowd. It was the place where food and friends were made. She was a good listener. She always seemed to have the time.
She taught this boy how to laugh and help others laugh, too. She read him books, taught him how to organize, make lists, how to make his bed, pick up clothes, catch crawdads—same for minnows—bake cakes from scratch, and how not to leave water- filled glasses on wooden tables—it makes rings.
Oh, she wasn’t perfect; and he never lets forget about the time she impatiently threw a pencil at him while she was on the phone. Being a mischievous three-year-old that he was, he naturally liked to beat pans together when she talked on the phone. The pencil, much to her shock, narrowly missed his eye and left a sliver of lead in his cheek that is still there.
Oh, yes, she taught him forgiveness by forgiving him an infinite number of times for not making his bed and not picking up his clothes. When he was a teenager—
she also forgave him when he got angry and took a swing at her—and fortunately missed.
But I guess the most profound thing she modeled was a love for God and people. Compassion was her companion. She taught him about giving to others even when she didn’t feel like it. She taught him about accountability, truthfulness, honesty, and transparency.
She modeled a tough loyalty to his dad. He knew divorce was never an option. And she took care of her own parents when old age took its toll. She went to church faithfully. In fact, she led this six-year-old boy to Christ in her Bible study class one Sunday evening.
She is truly a woman to be honored. She is more than somebody’s mother—she’s my mom. Mom, I love you.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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