By Dr. Bing Wall, LMFT
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
There are two chains in the link of life: learning from the previous generation and giving to the next. This is one of the great joys of family: learning from your parents and guiding your children. Count yourself blessed if you had a mother or father, uncle or aunt or an older brother or sister or pastor or priest or teacher or coach or boss or colleague, who took an interest in you and invested in you. Count yourself a blessing if can give that same guidance and insight and prodding and correction or nuance to anyone under your authority or within the reach of your life. If you can’t name those who influenced you or those whom you’ve influenced for good and rightness and wisdom, you are among those most to be pitied.
These posts you’ll see here have their origins in others who have influenced me. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus said, and as I’ve been given by a host of others, I want to give to others, too and keep the chain growing. I certainly have my parents to thank. Both my mother and father were generous and giving people, engaging and interested in others. They conveyed by word and example, this is what you do: God helped you, you give to others. “Hide it under a bushel, NO!” goes the Sunday School chorus my mother taught us. Giving is like breathing. You shrivel up if you don’t give back. You don’t want to end up like the Dead Sea: water going in and no water going out or you end up with no life. It’s called Dead for a reason.
Growing up in my high school years, the pastor of our church was Rev. Jim Froehlig (He passed away very quickly in his 50’s from cancer). For some reason, he took an interest in me in those formative years. He believed in me when I was young and fragile and had difficulty noticing God’s hand on my shoulders. He’d remind me it was there. He was informally my first counselor. I didn’t really know it at the time, how blessed I was. He also encouraged. He helped me think through my future and my gifts and listened and wasn’t afraid to give me a pointer or two along the way. Much of my style as a therapist is modeled after how he ministered to me in my formative years and I largely see the counseling I do as mentoring. Deep relationships seem rarer in our digital age. Talking with someone about their puzzles and quandaries, uncertainties and doubts, offers opportunities for iron to sharpen iron.
But the reason these posts are dedicated to Jim Froehlig is because he introduced me to his own mentors, who had prodded and stretched him. He’d quote them in our times together. He’d quote them in his sermons. He’d go to them time and again, mining them for gems to encourage himself and to use to encourage others. He’d share some of those gems with me. He planted seeds in me. They were his friends. They became my friends, too. They had a huge impact upon him. They’ve had a huge impact upon me. And now, in this little humble, digital space, I can share these tidbits of wisdom with you. Maybe you can find a morsel to share with others and keep the chain growing.
Who were these mentors that influenced him? There were others, of course, but the main ones were George MacDonald (1824-1905), G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) and Frederich Buechner (b. 1926). All were Christian writers who were exceptionally gifted in turning a phrase and applying Christian truth to the modern era. MacDonald was briefly a Congregational minister, but is most known for his fantasy writing and children’s fairy tales. Chesterton was an English writer, a later convert to Christianity, largely through the writings of MacDonald. Lewis was an atheist English professor at Oxford and Cambridge and converted to Christianity in his 30’s being highly influenced by his reading of MacDonald and Chesterton. He was a Christian apologist and writer. Buechner is an American writer and Presbyterian minister, who has written novels, essays and sermons. All of these men chose to use writing as a way convey the presence of God and the truth of Christ to their generation.
Off and on I’ve delved into their wisdom in my adult life. They continue to poke my thinking and writing, and like my mentor, Jim Froehlig, I quote them often in appropriate times in my counseling, Through modern social media I will share some of their gems and the gems of others that have had an impact upon me. Maybe, if a crusty soul like mine can be touched by a simple quote, maybe yours can, too.
3. Acts 20:35