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Defining Greatness

My favorite commandment is the fourth: Honor your Father and Mother. Here is why–it is the only commandment that God gave to Moses that was attached to a reward: Honor your Father and Mother and you will have a long life. That may not sound impressive but it was in the ancient world. It was rare to die peacefully of old age. Most people died young because of illness or war. Living to a ripe old age was the same as winning the Megabuck Millions.

When my mother was diagnosed with lupus, she needed a lot of assistance: doctors, nurses, social workers, insurance people, financial advice, etc. My role in my mother’s illness was clear. I was going to be her son. I was not going to be a therapist, a nurse, her advisor, or produce a lecture series. I embraced the role of a son. That meant I brought her flowers and mocha frappes, and snuck her out of the nursing home so she could shop. During the summer afternoons, we would go out to the courtyard and they had a large water fountain. We would take naps hearing the cascade of the water that relaxed us.

Once I took her to her favorite restaurant and she ordered her favorite dish: Chicken Supreme. She struggled to get the fork to her mouth, so I sat close beside her and helped her until she was finished. At that moment, a woman got out of her chair to leave. She walked past me, and whispered in my ear. “You are a great man.” That was the first time anyone ever said that to me, and for good reason. I never did anything great. I never earned a million dollars, I do not have a super bowl ring on my finger, and I never ran into a burning building to save a child. Yet, her definition of greatness was being a son.

I say this because God appeared in a cloud to speak. We have seen this often in the Old Testament. God tells us what he constitutes as greatness: This is my beloved Son. That is what I want to be, that is what I want to hear from the cloud someday. I am not God’s advisor as Peter did when he told Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and die, I not telling God what to like the Pharisees who tell Jesus he cannot cure on the Sabbath, I am not going to be like the crowd and demand a sign. I will be a son. And I think I have the skill set to do it well. Now we know why the fourth commandment has a reward.

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