I sit here writing this in the middle of my third year of college, five months away from my twenty-second birthday, in the craziest, most forming stage in my life. I’m learning so much in so many areas, both inside and outside of class, and these new things are being coupled with what I already knew and synthesized into new understandings that are both consistently rocking my world and crystallizing my understanding of that same world. And the more his happens, the more I come to understand a humbling truth:
I owe a debt of incomprehensible magnitude to my parents.
Of course there are all the obvious “duh” sorts of things, like the fact I wouldn’t even be in existence without them. But there’s so, SO much more than that. My parents didn’t teach me what to think; they taught me how to think. They didn’t construct a Christian worldview and then impress it upon me; they gave me the pieces and the tools and let me build it myself. I remember times when I would come to my Dad with a question about the Bible, and instead of giving me an answer, he would point me to some passages and tell me to come back when I had come up with an answer. Often I would return with a half-cooked theory, only to have him poke holes in it and point me to Scripture again. It was enormously frustrating at the time, but now I see what enormous value this had.
While many of my friends are now wrestling for the first time with fundamental questions about what they truly believe, I am free to confront deeper issues because my foundation was fought over and established long before I came to college. My education is so much more enriching because instead of having to cram everything I’m learning into my brain haphazardly as I try to muddle my way through everything, I already have a framework with which to acquire, evaluate, and integrate new knowledge into my existing life paradigm. Sometimes this requires making minor and even occasionally major corrections as necessary, which I am free to do instead of being terrified that all my cherished beliefs might come tumbling down if they get jostled and rearranged a bit. I owe to my parents my very ability to know and come to an understanding of the reality I exist in.
But that is only the beginning. My respect for the authority and applicability of Scripture in my life also originates in my parents. As far back as I can remember (and some of my memories go as far back as the age of three or four), my parents made it a family habit to have devotions. Even though I resisted this by getting bored due to short attention span as a child and irritated due to irrational rebellion as an adolescent, it was “forced” on me anyway, for which I am now thankful. As soon as I could read on my own, I was taught that it was important to read the Bible daily. My mother made Scripture memory a consistent part of our elementary education. When I would ask Dad if I could do something, what the Bible had to say about the issue inevitably entered into the discussion. Everywhere I turned there was more of the Bible; you couldn’t get away from it. Yeah, it might have gotten old sometimes, but I see the value in it now.
My parents also instilled me with the ability to not only pay attention to, but also critique the exegesis of Scripture. Early on in childhood my father made sure that instead of going to children’s church, I sat in “big” church. And he didn’t just tell me to pay attention to the sermon, he would also be sure to quiz me about it afterward—and heaven help me if I couldn’t answer his questions! Words cannot express how much this exasperated me at times, but it did teach me to pay attention, even to “boring” speakers. Now all I do is chuckle and shake my head at my college peers who whine about “boring” chapel messages that they didn’t get anything out of; they miss treasure troves of knowledge simply because they were never disciplined with the ability to pay attention to a speaker who might not have the skills of a showman.
What’s more, whenever Dad disagreed with the speaker (which seemed to be a rather frequent occurrence), he would point us to the Bible and show us why. Messages were always evaluated based on how well (or poorly) they reflected Scripture. Sermons were not something to simply let soak in; they had to be confronted, dismantled, inspected, reconstructed, and then applied if they passed the test of Scripture. And no speaker was above this process. They were all subject to it, from Billy-Bob of the Backwoods to the likes of David Jeremiah, Tony Evans, and Chuck Swindol.
I was steeped in critical thinking about the messages we heard in church, and if pastors were not above critique, then certainly no teacher, artist, or author in any other field was either. Dad made sure we had similar Q&A conversations about movies that we watched or books we read. It became imprinted on my brain: all thought (and its expression through any form) is subject to the truth of both general and special revelation, and therefore must be evaluated to see how well it measures up. This critical thinking is now second nature to me; I do it unconsciously, and it all began with Dad making me pay attention to and think about what I heard in church.
I could go on and on. If I were to write everything my parents have taught me or all the important ways they have influenced me, it would fill more volumes than the Encyclopedia Britannica. This little essay hardly does them justice, and doesn’t even put a dent in the enormous THANK YOU they deserve. And while they certainly aren’t perfect, I can most assuredly say this:
God has blessed me with amazing parents.