"They always spoke to us like we were going to achieve great things", he started. "For us, to be great was a given". He detailed where they had pushed him on when they had seen potential, and encouraged their children to be all that they could be. "I look at some of my friends' lives and see what a strength it was to have parents like mine, telling me I could succeed at anything".
Emma followed, telling us of her parents' sacrifices and the way in which they lived, putting their children before themselves. How at moments on the journey her parents would stop and say "We're doing this for you, kids". Not all parents have been so good at landmarking along the way, but all have shared the responsibility of laying down their life for their child, which is never to be underestimated.
Joelle told how her parents had instilled in their children that they could do anything – anything at all, as long as they gave it one hundred percent. And in all things, to put God first. Before goals, visions and great ambitions, first and foremost to live with a greater vision, a relationship with the Creator.
And now four sets of eyes looked at me expectantly. Where could I begin? My parents had always excelled in exceptional generosity, they had always gone above and beyond. When I had failed to understand 2 Corinthians 8:2, "While they were undergoing every sort of trouble, and were in the greatest need, they took all the greater joy in being able to give freely to the needs of others", my parents had embodied it, giving more in the times that they had less. And yet this generosity was still not what I valued most in them.
"They always gave us time," I started. "They made way for time, they gave us space to explore the supernatural with wonderful freedom, and in doing so they enlarged our worlds astronomically. You can't dream big if you've never seen big, and yet in a living room in the suburbs of Brisbane our spirits soared as young children, seeing visions of things we could only hope to dream of in the natural – but we saw them in the supernatural as if they were real, true, right there in front of us. My parents never spoke down to us or looked down on us though we were so small. They enlarged our worlds by helping us to be who we are – world changers, even as very young children". My mum used to say, when adults would question why she treated her children beyond their years, that the Spirit of God in a child is as big as the Spirit of God in an adult. My parents had modelled so well the instruction of 1 Timothy 4:12, "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young", setting an example for others in so many ways.
Next came Imogen, who recalled how her parents had managed her temperament through the calamities that come with being an eight-year-old.
She called them her "girlie crises". The moments when, as a child and later as a teenager she had gone through small but overdramatised dilemmas. Her parents, she said, had been strong with her and for her, shaping a more resilient emotional response in their child by refusing to pander to her whims in moments of weakness, sometimes playing devil's advocate and always encouraging her to see the other side of whatever situation she was dealing with. For this, she thanked them. The benefit of hindsight had furnished her with a view of the true value of that strength as she navigates life as an adult.
This strength - sometimes the strength to say no, sometimes to say yes, is something that we all saw in our parents. Our families had each exhibited uniquely stellar examples of parenting through crises and good times, leading the way in being Christian and being kind, being strong and quietly selfless, choosing ourselves and choosing each other on a daily basis, and always laying down more of their lives for God and for others. But the parents we have today are not the parents we have always had. With us they have grown and changed, moments of pressure solidifying their status as diamonds, not always in the rough. Which gives us all hope – as my mum says, people are not a finished product but beautiful paintings in progress. Yet like them we will take the road less travelled and walk a higher path.
So to our parents, we honour you. To the parents of the future, these are the things your children will appreciate one day. And to the children like us: thank your parents!
Grace Mathew is a Sydney-based writer and speaker who recently graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of International and Global Studies.
Garce's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/grace-mathew.html