All day yesterday, I kept getting wooed back to 2 Timothy. First thing in the morning, I picked up my Bible with the intention of reading where I left off… Hebrews, but felt like flipping back a few pages to 2 Timothy. Then, I had to drive to Parkersburg. While flipping channels on the radio, I found a sermon on, you guessed it, the first chapter of 2 Timothy. Later on, shuffling in the door late, from my drive to P-burg that took longer than I had anticipated, I tip-toed into the back of the church doors, right as Scott was reading, yup, not only 2 Timothy, but the exact verses that the sermon had been on, and come to think of it, it was the same verses that I had been arrested by in my morning reading.
It says this “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:5-7)
This morning, I picked up 2 Timothy again, because although I was certain that God had been calling it to my attention, I was also certain that I didn’t grasp, yet, what it was that He wanted to show me in it. And I was also certain that I was to narrow the scope and not try to read the whole book (although it is short and manageable in a single reading), but rather these 3, sweet verses. And here’s my take-away…
I know what a gift this is: This lineage of faith. Both of my parents are believers, all of my grandparents, which is such a monumental gift, but I am going to focus in on the Lois and Eunice of my bloodline. My mom and grandma. Both of which helped raise me. There was a good chunk of my childhood that my mom, brother and I lived with my grandparents, and my grandma was my stay-at-home mom.
In ways, I feel like this was one of the greatest blessings I’ve been given. I take a risk in saying this, because I know there are a lot of folks out there who are the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of their family’s spiritual lineage, and there’s some glory and blessing in that, too. Abraham and Sarah were the spiritual parents to all of Israel, and the parents of our own faith. That’s glory. You may not feel it now, especially if you are young in the faith, but you will, if you endure. And this monologue is meant to inspire those who are older to take you under their wings, to give you a Eunice and a Lois.
But back to my own family tree. When I look back at those two, amazing women in my life, I see that the best of who I am roots back to them.
Do you like my soap? Thank my grandma, who taught me homemaking arts. Maybe not specifically to make soap, but she taught me to plant my feet at home and take care of my people. She taught me to sew, crotchet, eat healthy. She taught me a love of herbal and natural medicine, which is the bedrock of why I make the skin products that I do. I know that’s not really spiritual, but it kinda is, because it’s a matter of loving those that surround me. And she loved by nurturing, so I do too. And she also exemplified a love for Jesus that joyfully welcomes others in. I’m sure that, in her 60’s, she wasn’t elated about taking care of young, rambunctious children, and helping with homework, etc., but I never knew it, if she didn’t enjoy it, because all I saw was her smile.
And my mom, I could write volumes about my mom. She should be canonized, for all that I put her through and how she endured. My mom is unbelievable! She taught me how to cling to Jesus in the most storm-tossed places of life. She taught me the immense worth of the Scriptures, because of how she loved and clung to them. She taught me to listen for the Father’s comforting voice. She taught me endurance. She taught me to guard my tongue when I am tempted to speak evil and to open my lips to encourage and bless. She taught me to pay attention to people, to listen, to care, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. To take my eyes off myself and put them on others and Him. She taught me how to live for someone else’s well-being, more than my own. She taught me to love God and my fellow man. If you’ve been blessed by me in any way, shape or form, you can almost definitely thank my mother for that. She is a rockstar! She is the most humble, gracious woman I know. (And it’s kinda fun to make her blush. Just say “Thanks”, Mom, and receive it. We both know Who the Source of all that goodness is!)
So, I know the blessing of this lineage. I feel like I jumped into the race with a huge head-start. But not everyone has. But everyone that loves Christ has jumped into a family. This is why I love the Church so much. We are called to live in community with one another. We are grafted into something larger than ourselves, for the purpose of inspiring, teaching, encouraging, helping, loving, training and being trained by one another.
So many Christians think they can do it alone. This is arrogance. I know that there’s a lot of crap in the church these days. There’s even a lot of things that are called “church” that aren’t even the true Church. There’s a lot of pastors that don’t even seem to actually love God (ahem… Joel Osteen).
The Church is the family of God, not a building. A building is just a place for the family of God to gather together. But, please, dear brothers and sisters, don’t give up on finding a gathering that feels like family, just because you’ve been wounded. One reason I say it’s arrogant, is because we have to realize that just as we’ve been wounded, we’ve also been the wounder. And we also must realize that this is not a solo expedition. We can’t go this alone.
A healthy church is full of folks mentoring and being mentored. I love me some older, wiser saints, whose hair-color reflects the depth of their souls. But I also feel an obligation to teach those younger in their faith, the things that I’ve gathered and learned along the way. And I can only do that by living in this community that I am being offered. I’d be wasting so much of my life and gifts, any other way.
Somewhere in that good ol’ Book, it says that the world will know us, Church, by our love for one another. How can we love each other if we avoid each other?
But avoiding a steepled building is not the only way to waste our life and gifts. We can also waste a lot of our resources, if we neglect to be Lois and Eunice, or even Timothy, for one another. Church, it is not only the pastor’s job to teach. I once had a mentor in my life tell me that the cycle is completed when I am not only being mentored, but mentoring others as well. It’s true. I am brim-full when I sit at the feet of older, wiser saints, and when I pour myself out into the younger ones that want to sit at my feet. This is the way of the Kingdom. We get full to overflow.
The Bible is the ultimate mentor, but just like the Ethiopian eunuch, sometimes we need someone else to saddle up beside us and expound on what the Bible means, what this whole faith journey means. We are not as wise as we think we are.
This is a plea, I guess. If you are a believer, avoiding going to church, please know that church is a gift. There are folks in other countries, hiding in caves, trapped in prison cells, and wishing they had other believers to gather with, that would smack you upside your head for wasting such an opportunity. Even the conflict that we experience there is gift, because there’s always conflict when you live in community with other also-fallen human beings. But conflict is not the absence of peace, it is meant to be the pathway to true peace, and growth in holiness.
The true Church is a greater gift that just a Lois or a Eunice in our lives. We are not only welcomed into a lineage, but into this incredible family that transcends space and time. We are in the same community as those who love the Lord on every continent and that have lived in every generation. “As for the saints that are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). We are called one body… and a body can’t function without the rest of it’s parts.
And to you, the older believer, are you living your life in such a way that makes the younger believers want to go to you for wisdom, insight and guidance? Are you mindful that your time on earth is only so long, and then you must pass the baton? Are you preparing others to receive your baton? Paul told Timothy to fan the flame of the gift of God within him. Are you helping others to fan their flames? Are you encouraging them and drawing out their gifts. This life is too short to live for the temporal. Spiritual retirement is only found in heaven. We are called to live fully, not driven by fear, but in the strength of His might, with genuine love and self-control. How are you doing at that?
And you, Timothy’s, those of you that have received this gift, whether it is from an actual parent, or a spiritually-adopted parent, fan that flame! It is a gift! Don’t waste it.
P.S. I figured I’d add this picture of my mother-in-law, to include her in this tribute, since she is also really, really, REALLY wonderful and is passing along a spiritual lineage, as well. She always refers to us (her and I) as “Naomi and Ruth”, which is a pretty wonderful assessment. If you’ve read the book of Ruth, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t, you should. It’s an awesome book. And the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, well, they’re pretty much best friends! I really love her a ton, too, and am so grateful for the amazing man that she raised and for her influence in her grandson’s lives. Ma, you’re a rockstar, as well! And I am glad to be the Ruth to you, Naomi (literally, that’s her name… but that’s not what I call her)!