When you grow up in the midst of a happy home, you take a lot of things for granted.
For instance, I didn't know it wasn't normal for both parents to come to every sporting event--home and away--of your high school athletic career. I didn't know other families didn't gather around the table for dinner every night. I thought it was pretty normal to play family games of Jeopardy around the TV, keeping track of your score on a notecard and determining how much you wanted to wager during the Final Jeopardy round.
In hindsight, I wasn't nearly as thankful as I should have been. As a parent myself now, I marvel at the sacrifice of my parents. Hours during the week spent behind the wheel, driving me to-and-from various sports practices. Hours spent listening to the same songs (played poorly) on the piano. Hours of help with homeschooling and, in later years, homework.
I marvel at the sacrifice, but I've also come to realize that they really enjoyed being with their children. Even in my teenage angst, they genuinely seemed to want to hang out with me. I'm sure there were times when they were relieved when I was in bed, but I never saw that. I saw love.
Looking back, I realize they were, perhaps unwittingly, teaching me about God. They were teaching me what love really is--it makes sacrifices motivated not by duty, but by the joy set before it. Their genuine love for and enjoyment of me was a mere shadow of my heavenly Father's love for me as His child. He doesn't merely tolerate me, nor does He cast me away or roll His eyes when I'm making poor decisions, once again. He loves me as He loves His Son.
Even now, my parents are my cheerleaders. If you're my friend on Facebook, you've no doubt seen their names on pretty much every thing I've ever posted. I could post the same link to an article 3 times and they would probably "Like" it all 3 times. I know how I've treated them in the past. I know I don't deserve any support or encouragement on my own merit. But there they are, wielding Facebook "Likes" as pom-poms and faithfully cheering me on.
Today my parents celebrate 35 years of marriage. They're spending the week at a friend's condo. If you know them, you know this is an unusual blessing. Even their vacation time is usually spent with their kids and grandkids, working and serving.
For the past 15 years, my dad has been a bi-vocational pastor, working 40+ hours as a journalist and pastoring a small church. His life is service. He's normally the first one at his church, helping set up chairs before the service, and he's the last one to leave, collecting the fold-up church stand from the roadside on his way home. It's not just duty; it's joy.
My mom drives 10 hours every few months to my house to serve me for a week. She cooks, cleans and plays all day every day. She serves the women in her church. In fact, my parents are using some of their evenings to babysit for other families. It's not just duty; it's joy.
It's the joy of being loved and known that motivates their own love and service. It's the knowledge that Jesus Christ humbled Himself. But just knowing this isn't enough. Their service is fueled not just by knowledge, but by receiving incredible grace. And they are conduits for this grace, dispensing it to all who know them.
My parents aren't perfect, but they are a beautiful testament of the power of God's saving, redeeming, sanctifying grace in the hearts of two flawed people.
So today I just want to say thank you. I love you, Dad and Mom.