I find it interesting that when the apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to counsel Timothy about relationships with older men and women he wrote, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” – 1 Timothy 5:1-2.
What I find interesting is that Paul did not tell Timothy to treat older men and women the way he treated his own father or mother but as a father or mother. Wise counsel. Not everyone has the best of relationships with parents. And not every parent makes getting along with them easy.
C. S. Lewis looked back with regret on his relationship with his father. A relationship with a lot of moving parts: the death of a wife and mother leaving the senior Lewis to raise two small boys, the way each of the three men handled the loss and grief, and the fear and confusion that inevitably accompanies such loss.
Even when Lewis was well into his mid 50s it didn’t take much to touch that nerve and prompt him to talk about the relationship. In 1954 a Rhonda Bodle wrote Lewis about a problem she had with her father. Lewis wrote back,
“Oh how you touch my conscience! I treated my own father abominably and no sin in my life now seems to be so serious . . . I have been astonished at the ease (and even the affection) with which I have been able to treat in other old men the very same characteristics I was so impatient with in my Father. I wonder can something be done along those lines? – by remembering how merely funny, how endearing in a whimsical way, the things that divide you from your father wd. seem if he were a casual acquaintance. By voluntarily standing further off might one in effect come closer?”1
While not true for everyone, many people find it easier to be kinder to people outside of their immediate family. In such cases maybe we should treat them more like a father than our father. Just a thought.
“For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them” – Hebrews 12:10
1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 445.