Honor: Applied

written by Chris and Bob Hartenstein
We are talking about how we honor others and the impact that can have. We explored the truth that as created image-bearers we have worth, value and dignity because God has proclaimed that over us and has shown that by sending Jesus to die for every human that has, is, and ever will live! This applies to all and can be received by all...no matter their race, creed, color, gender, ethnicity, past, present, or future failures or success. So how do we apply this truth?

I’d like to share with you how honoring others has impacted my life and that of our entire family.  

There are no wounds that go as deep as those given to us by our fathers. Either their active wounding because of verbal, physical, mental, or emotional abuse or the neglect of an absent dad. It doesn’t matter if we knew our dad or not. The wounds we sustain from them (and that we give to our children) are the deepest. It is intentional that I am sharing this story because it emanates from the wounding of a father to a son and how one man's choice to honor his father impacted generations thereafter. This story is a testimony to how a consistent, loving, gracious, and truth-filled heart of honor can change the trajectory of an entire family and changed what it meant to be a Hartenstein.  

The Picture by Robert L. Hartenstein

(This story was told at a conference dad was asked to speak at a few decades ago. He was asked to speak on how “applying biblical principles affects our lives.” How when we choose to obey God he brings unexpected blessings and results).  

“We come to a time and place in our walk when we desire a closer, more intimate fellowship with the Lord, in other words, we, His children, truly seek Him.

What He does is reveal sin, brokenness, wounds, and unfinished places in our lives – something that is hindering our closeness and sidetracking a more intimate walk with Him. This brings us to a decision point: do we repent, allow healing, change our course of action, or do we rationalize, hold onto pain and brokenness because they are familiar. Do we allow a good Father the opportunity to do something new in us which reveals not only his heart and character but makes us whole and holy?

During a season of my life, I was faced with the question: how do I honor my mother and father as Jesus asks me to? What does it look like to honor someone who may not be, in my and other’s opinion, honorable?  

The story requires some background, so let me start by telling you about my upbringing. I was raised over a bar.  From the age of ten, my bed was located over the barroom speakers. I fell asleep each night to the constant beat of the jukebox. My earliest memory of my dad was seeing his feet dangle over his bed as he slept, sometimes this being the only contact I had with him that whole day. I learned early in life, that Dad expected perfection; not accomplishing the early morning chores of scrubbing the restroom and bar floors and taking out the empty whiskey bottles and trash, all before catching the school bus was unacceptable. I also learned that making any noise at all in my room would lead to a quick and painful encounter with Dad’s big black belt. My mom defined my dad’s expectations as those of a perfectionist, he demanded, threatened, and beat us – to be thirty-year-olds in eight-year-old bodies.  

One incident in particular sticks out in my mind. I was twelve years old and my brother, who was ten at the time, was chasing me down the stairs which led to the outside. At the bottom of the stairs was a glass-louvered door which I slammed hard behind me to slow down my brother’s pursuit. Upon impact, the glass shattered and caused such a noise it awakened my dad (remember the demand of not waking him). He pulled on his trousers and when he reached the bottom of the stairs, I had already prepared a lie for him. An ominous dark-colored car had driven through the parking lot and someone had thrown a rock through the louvered door, then sped away! Even half-awake Dad could see through my story – no rock, glass on the outside of the door, and none on the inside. He did not hesitate, his belt came off his pants like King David drawing his sword against an enemy. He beat me so hard, I fell to the ground and then he began to kick me up the stairs into my bedroom. He locked me in my bedroom and left me there for three days, in the middle of a school week. Mom sneaked me some food and wrote me an elaborate excuse for missing school. Since I was not perfect, I learned a valuable lesson that day that guided me during my unsaved youth – I had to become a better liar or pay the consequences!

In spite of our rocky past, I always admired my dad; his 6’ 4” frame gave him the appearance of a man’s man. He had to leave school in the ninth grade to work in the steel mills to help support his widowed Mom and five siblings. He had even turned down playing professional football, to fulfill his responsibilities to his mom. Although lacking a formal education himself, he provided the resources to educate his children to supply our needs and honor his wife, our mom, through hard work and determination. I respected him and even sought his counsel, although he was not a professing Christian, prior to purchasing a business, Hartco.  

Allow me to shift gears and let's discuss a certain picture….

Years later my parents owned and operated a fine dining establishment. While operating the restaurant, Mom had a painting commissioned of my dad and gave it to him on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was displayed in the large lobby for all to see. When they sold the restaurant and moved to Cincinnati, Dad gave me the painting. It was huge, over three feet wide and five feet tall and there was literally no place in our home spacious enough to put it, so it went into our warehouse to gather dust.

But as I walked through the warehouse and saw his likeness on that painting gathering dust, I was nagged by the feeling of what others must have thought about my dad. It just didn’t seem to honor him. Healthy conviction flooded my heart as well as a battle over whether or not he deserved to be honored. As I processed, I knew it didn’t fit anywhere in our modest home, so I discussed with my brother the possibility of putting it up in the lobby of the company. I struggled with the harshness of the past, the lack of fatherly compassion I had experienced in my youth, the fact that he wasn’t a Christian, but God’s command did not come with conditions, it simply says “honor your parents”. All the excuses were just that, excuses for my sin, brokenness and wounding, the struggle of not wanting to honor my parents, but I chose to yield to the promptings God placed in my heart and put the painting up in the lobby.  I then wondered if it was enough but God encouraged me that this one step was all he was asking of me in honoring my dad. As providence would have it, the very day I placed the painting in the lobby, Dad came in and asked me what I was doing and my answer was simple, “I wanted to honor you.” He broke down, hugged me, and cried. It was a moment I could never adequately explain.  I could sense the healing of wounds long since scarred over my life. I could feel a love that I often wondered if it even existed between us. It was...unexpected and the beginning of the rebuilding of our relationship.

This leads me to a second story a couple of years later when our son, Chris, went to his first high school wrestling camp. He had been the spiritual leader of his junior high team, leading in prayer before meets carrying his Bible to class and sharing the Gospel to both fellow students and teachers. But things changed When he got to wrestling camp. His companions, who had apparently respected his testimony in junior high, now mocked him before the older guys. Being free from parental oversight, they had bought pornographic magazines, chewing tobacco and had even changed their vocabulary accordingly. Chris called me that first night, discouraged and upset, wondering what to do next. We prayed together and discussed what it meant to “stand-alone”, we ended the conversation and I spent even more of the evening in prayer.  

The next evening, I received a totally different call from Chris. After that day’s training sessions, some of the guys went to an outdoor campus rally. There, a ministry team from Campus Crusade for Christ was sharing the Gospel.  After the rally, one of his companions asked Chris more about the message he had just heard and if that was why he did not follow the crowd. The result was that the young man accepted the Lord. My son was pumped, re-energized, and encouraged.

This leads me to a third story where I was asked to share with a fellow group of business owners about what it takes and what it means to “stand-alone with Christ” in the business world. As I prepared my testimony, the recent events that surrounded my son’s standing alone filled my thoughts. So I asked him, “What gave you the strength to stand alone in the midst of such a discouraging experience”? I fully expected him to say one of the many pat answers we all use. But what he said caught me totally off guard, his answer was simple, “the picture, Dad, the picture of Grandpa H. I wanted to honor you, the way you honored your dad.”

Then through tears of joy and recognition of such an awesome God, I learned the true rewards of honoring your parents. Giving honor generously had allowed God to give generously to me.

And the picture?

….The picture still hangs in a place of honor at Hartco.  Years after my dad, who accepted Christ, passed on to Glory, love and honor are still shown to him. The picture reflects not only the honor that grew deeper in my heart but a truer love for the man, I call Dad.”

I am back! (Chris)...

That story invokes so much emotion in me. Two pictures hang in the hallway at Hartco now, my grandpa and my dad! The broken, wounded, imperfect men honored not for all that they did perfectly but for who they were declared to be by our Dad: image-bearers, who have great worth, value, and purpose! I knew Grandpa Hartenstein and I saw the change in him. I know it was the Holy Spirit working in him but I also know that it was my dad through whom God’s love, grace, and truth flowed into Grandpa’s life and heart. Did Grandpa deserve my dad’s honor? Not by his actions, but certainly because he was an image bearer and had worth and value as declared by God. My dad honored that in him and that drew out the TRUE man that was my Grandpa H!

How did he know how to honor his Dad?

The example Jesus set in his life on earth and the life-giving, powerful words of the Bible. Dad believed in the truth, trusted it and transformation took place! In his heart, his dad’s heart, my heart, and the hearts of my kids as well (there is much more to this story!!) If we want to “know-how” we start by inviting Jesus into the situation of honoring another. He knows the way, he is ahead of us, leading us. ASK HIM!! (Read John 10).  

There is so much more I could say on this topic but I think, for now, I will let the story tell it all. I think this simply leaves us with what are we going to do with this truth of honoring others?

With all my heart I believe this is a microcosm of what each of us can do in our world today. What if we each took the time to honor one person, especially someone who we have not in the past? What if we invoked the power of God into our actions through our obedience? Imagine this: if half of those folks we honored had a heart change, what kind of family, community, city, and country would we have!? I believe it would be a much different place than what we have now. We don't need organizations, governments, denominations, or political parties to dictate our actions, we have Jesus' example, and following that will make all the difference in the world. He is relevant for today, his life, his actions, and his spirit. We need it and it is a game-changer.    

So who do you choose to honor? Don’t make it an easy pick! Push into someone who is a challenge. See their face? Now ask Jesus: how do I honor this person? How do I show Jesus’ love to them? Not only will he answer you but he will empower you! Yes, it will be hard but it will be good too! Get out there, do it!

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