“Listen to your father who gave you life…”Proverbs 23:22a
F or this devotional, I want to honor a personal hero of mine: my father, Ray Bobo.
We cannot really understand the virtues of our parents as children. Our world is just too small. Of course fathers coach baseball games and attend school awards ceremonies. Of course fathers take their sons to Waffle House or out for a round of golf to spend time together. Of course fathers encourage their sons’ plans and pray for their future. Of course. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve seen from experience that these things are not automatic or universal. They require love and work and energy.
Large portions of the book of Proverbs are framed as the instructions of a father to his son. The book of Proverbs almost seems like an extended meditation upon the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother, that your days may belong in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Solomon is identified as “Son of David” from the very first verse. He then says: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). Solomon is passing on the wisdom from his father David to his own son.
The reason adolescents are often so cocky is because we think we came to know what we know on our own. This isn’t true. In the vast majority of cases, we were taught what we know by our parents, either by explicit instruction or modeled behavior. It wasn’t until I had my own kids that I came to realize this. Nearly everything I’ve ever taught my kids—about to turn 2, 4, and 6—will not be something stored in their conscious memories. They will have the habit of saying “I’m sorry” or of sharing what they have or of respecting teachers and leaders. But they will probably not remember the occasions when I taught them these things.
This is the way of generations—the younger nearly always fail to appreciate the full magnitude of what they owe to those who came before. What we owe our parents is almost unfathomable. At one point in Proverbs, Solomon says it this way: “Listen to your father who gave you life…” (Proverbs 23:22). This basic good—that we exist—incurs a debt of gratitude we cannot ever fully repay. It’s a gift, a gift given to us by our parents.
The more that I work to guide my own children, the more I realize just how shaped I have been by my own parents, Ray and Elizabeth, and how much I owe them. They provided the hands-on, 24/7 education that helped me learn how to make my way in the world. Parents are always the first heroes in our lives—even if it takes us a few decades of life to realize just how heroic they really are!