Alright, let me begin here by saying that I know it has been a long time since I wrote anything here. I wish I could say that it has just been longer than I wanted it to be, but the truth is I wasn’t sure whether or not I would write anything more here. Part of it, to be sure, is just how busy life has been since the last time I wrote. Due to my wife losing her job, and the company housing that went with it (plus some added family issues), we’ve completely moved all of our stuff twice in the last 6 weeks. Add to that the reality that I’m now commuting an hour one way to work each day, and an hour back, and life is understandably busy.
Thing is, there’s more to it than that. I’ve noticed, in the weeks since the Holidays, a sort of lethargy slowly creeping in. I work the 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at a call centre for a major telephone company, meaning I leave the house each day by 12:30 or so and I’m gone for at least a good 12 hours (just because the shift ends at 11 doesn’t mean I’m off at 11 all the time; long calls mean I have to stay until the issue is resolved, no matter how long that takes). I get home by 12:30 or 1 a.m., sleep til 9 or so the next morning, have an hour or two to myself and then gear up to do it all over again. Sundays are spent at church and trying to relax, while Wednesdays (my other day off) are spent taking care of loose ends from moving or trying to find a house for sale while simultaneously trying to get enough rest to make it through the next few days. (I know a lot of you reading this will work similar hours, and can probably identify with what comes next.) Given all of that, it’s been easy to set aside certain things and to focus on little more than simply making it by. Working when I have to and when I’m not working, getting enough rest to make it through the next shift. That, in short, is why I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write anything for this place again. (As I write this draft, it’s 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning; I’m giving up rest to do this, which has me nervous, but as you’ll see, there’s something else at stake here.)
As I’ve been reading through different parts of the Bible over the last few weeks, somehow I ended up in the book of 2 Timothy. (I say somehow because it wasn’t a book I intended to read; a verse came to mind one day that I couldn’t place which turned out to be from 2 Timothy and that was that.) This particular book is, depending on who you ask, either one of the last that the Apostle Paul wrote or the very last one he wrote. Either way, he wrote it not long before his execution under the Emperor Nero in the mid ’60’s A.D. It is in many ways a theological treasure trove, especially when it comes to the conduct of those of us who call ourselves Christians, but at the same time it is also an intensely personal document. Paul refers to Timothy as “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2; some translations have “my beloved son in the faith), and you don’t get a title like that without more than a few experiences together. As the book of Acts and Paul’s other letters hint at, Paul and Timothy shared many dusty roads together, many long nights, and much heartache. To say the least, the two men were very close friends, and now Paul is writing to Timothy one more time before the end.
The general sense of Chapter 1 here, along with the first 13 verses of Chapter 2, is one of encouragement. Paul reminds Timothy of what he’s known about him since the beginning of their relationship, as well as some key events along the way, and finally encourages him to carry on as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). The middle of Chapter 2 closes out this section by reminding Timothy that, although this is what Paul is encouraging him to live up to, he will not always succeed and this is OK. God remains faithful even when we do not (2 Timothy 2:13). This section takes up almost a third of the letter, and the reason for this lengthy focus on encouragement is simple. Timothy has evidently heard of Paul’s predicament and has lost heart (see 2 Timothy 1:8). Timothy has become discouraged.
Now, what exactly does all of this have to do with my experiences of the last few weeks, and your experiences as well, if you’re reading this and can identify with where I’m at right now? The focus of this section only makes sense when you take into account the relationship between these two men. This is not some stranger that Paul is lecturing here; this is his “beloved son.” What Paul is saying to Timothy is, in essence, “I know you, and you know I do. I know who you are, how you’ve grown over the years, and you know we’ve shared enough experiences together that I know what I’m talking about. I know that this person you are right now is not you. You are more than this, and you need to live that out.” Again, such an admonition only makes sense when you remember that these two have been around the block a few times together, and as a result Paul has both earned the right to speak the way he does and is truthful in what he says.
I don’t know about you, but I read passages like this one and I would love to have someone do the same for me. You know? Someone who knows me that deeply, and can call me on it when I start to shrink back from who I am. As I was reflecting on that desire, I realized that I do have someone like that. Jesus knows me better than anyone else ever will, and He has been there during every trying time I’ve ever had. He and I have been around the block a few times together ourselves. Jesus is saying the same thing to me that Paul said to Timothy. “I know you, I know you are more than this, and you need to live that out.” This post, and those that follow, is part of the fruit of that.
If you’re reading this, I likely don’t know you at all. I am certainly not one to speak into your life the way Paul spoke into Timothy’s, or the way Jesus spoke into mine. That being said, Jesus knows you better than anyone else ever will, and whether you know Him or not, He has been there through all the trying times in your life, too. Is He speaking into your life right now? The Bible tells us that, whether He is calling us to know Him for the first time, or calling us to trust Him again after many years, He is always speaking to us.. He already knows you, and He longs for that relationship with you as He helps you become who He made you to be. It’s up to us to listen for His voice and respond to it.