Talked with a friend today about a rarity in family life that wasn’t a rarity a generation or so ago: children seeing their parents interact regularly and often with grandparents. Both of us have had the rare privilege and challenge of being an example to our children in this area.
A few years back my own mom was living in an assisted living facility. We’d see her at least once a week and usually take the kids along. It was mildly amusing and also bittersweet the way the other residents would react to David and Bethany, as if they’d never seen anyone younger than 20 before in their lives. They weren’t interested in a creepy way, but in an affectionate and lonely way. I don’t think many of those residents saw their own children or their children’s children.
My mom came to live with us 5 years ago and I realized today that our interactions with my mom is offering my sons and daughter a blueprint for their future relationship with Julia and I. Of course, they aren’t robots who will only act in accordance with their programming. They will make their own choices about relating with us.
As I think about Paul’s comment that we should follow the example of Christ, it does make me pause. What kind of a template are we creating for the youngsters? Do our children see us spending time with my mom, inviting her to things, listening, resolving disagreements, laughing with her or do they see us avoiding her, getting agitated, speaking poorly of her? Lord, I hope more the former and not so much the latter.
I hope, that in our own imperfect way, Julia and I (and the kids) are obeying the command of 1 Timothy 5:4,
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. (NIV)
How interesting that church members’ interactions with aging parents was at the heart of Paul’s guidance about leading the church. How important is this area to God? So important that care for widows is one of the most talked about ethical issues in the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
And it isn’t just about aging moms and dads. Paul goes on in 1 Tim 5:8,
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Maybe you’ll visit an aging relative this Christmas, perhaps a parent, but maybe an aunt or uncle. Maybe it’s your dad’s cousin or your mom’s high school friend who became like family. Maybe you’re the last family tie this person has. Maybe, just maybe, this is a good time to reflect and pray on how the Lord may want you to bring the Christmas spirit into the rest of the year with this older person. Or maybe it’s a time to celebrate how God has helped you to love them and ask him for power and grace to stay faithful. Either way, happy Christmas to you and to all you love, both young and old.