I don’t know what the inner space of your mind looks like, but mine is full of shelves, each holding file boxes full of memories. Two nights ago, I went to taking box lids off and flipping through the folders, searching for a moment when I was a 24 year old mother of two young boys in a broken down marriage of 4 years to a man I neither knew nor wanted to know. We were gifted a weekend at a bed and breakfast, time away and together we needed more desperately than understood at the time. I was a few months in to living alongside a life-long illness I did not yet know I had. I was dealing with physical and mental and emotional strain that I did not have words to express. We walked into a little barn with a cozy living space set up for us to reside in for a few days, and there they were. On a table, words beautifully written and framed up, set in front of a flower-filled vase:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love
and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
As a person suffocating beneath the crushing weight of life, feeling everything but powerful, feeling full of everything but love (for myself, for my husband, for life in general), feeling anything but “of sound mind”, these words pricked a tiny hole in the dark veil obscuring my sight, and the light bled through a little that day.
And so, I went searching for this memory two nights ago and again the night after and still today. I started reading 2 Timothy from the beginning, and kept on through the second chapter. I read the words of the second chapter and re-read them, then did as I often do when I am wrestling with a big something to which I cannot give adequate expression. I pulled out notebook and fine-tipped pen and set about writing the words on the pages before me in my own script, letting the flooding of ink onto blank page soak into my soul just as it saturated paper.
I have nothing to add to the political rhetoric out there. I am no more a politician than I am a theologian. I’m just a regular person peering through the billowing clouds of darkness in the ongoing storm of a long sequence of months, trying to find the dimly flickering specs of light not yet snuffed out by all of this ache. I will not pretend to have answers to any of the prevalent issues of the day. I am not a politician, and have no grid for truly understanding what that life is like to live. I am not a person of color, and cannot speak with any integrity about what life is like for all of my darker-skinned brothers and sisters, about how the recent events have opened up deep wounds down to the bone, again. Admittedly, the best thing I can do when some external turmoil hits is to lean into the voices around me who have the perspective to speak truly and truthfully to me about these things, to listen and contemplate, then take what I have learned and use my knowledge to do and say and act in a way more in line with the character of God.
Not every voice needs to speak up in every situation. I know that, too. If everyone is speaking, no one is doing the work of listening. Which brings me to the point of this rambling. I’ll not bore you with my thoughts about the words quoted below. I recommend only that you read them and then read them again, that you think about who-and Whose-you are as you read them, and that you ask yourself about the intent of the words you choose to speak in the future before you choose to utter them. Words have such power, friends-power to hurt and power to heal. Please be careful how you use them.
2 Timothy 2:1-26
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
I am grateful for a God whose words are unhindered by our misuse of them. I am grateful that He remains faithful even when we are faithless, and that He has given direction to all those who love Him, even in a time when it seems senselessness reigns. I’m thankful, too, for a God who has relentlessly poked holes into the darkness which has oft sought to obscure my sight so that when I search the dark for flecks of light, I see Hope shining brightly out of the blackness.