The Apostle Paul is certainly a brilliant man. And, amazingly bold and courageous. But, the depth, power, and yes, beauty of his paternal relationship with Timothy is one of the things that draws me to him the most. If we could learn to love well, like Paul came alongside Timothy, I strongly believe our lives would be that much richer.
The first time I really came across the depth, power and beauty of Paul’s relationship with Timothy was in the summer after my first year in grad school. Unfortunately, it was during a time when my mom was gravely ill in the hospital, and I had lonely, uncertain afternoons at the lake, with empty time to fill. Gratefully, I was drawn to the Word, and found myself spending a chunk of time in II Timothy. Perhaps because I was on the verge of losing my mom at age 30, the words about Paul’s relationship with Timothy had even more power.
In his second letter to Timothy, early in the first chapter (vs 4), Paul comes out with a stunning sentence, one with incredible depth and potency. I’m imagining this sentence flows from reflecting on a powerful goodbye between Paul and Timothy. Paul tenderly writes: “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.” Paul, the amazing theologian, (he’s the writer of Romans after all), was clearly not stuck in the abstract world of ideas. He was not avoidant or afraid of entering the world of emotions. He loved deeply. He loved well.
There are three things, (yes three) that we, as men and women called to love well, can learn from this one sentence. I dare you to embrace them!
#1) Embrace the Difference You can Make in a Life
While I know that we cannot, by definition have deep relationships with everyone, there are some people, even beyond family, that we are called to deeply love.
With regard to Paul, it seems really clear that he was uniquely called to enter Timothy’s world. While Paul underscores that Timothy had the unarguably important faith of his grandma Eunice and his mom Lois to inspire and guide him, there are no men listed. No grandpa mentioned. No dad mentioned. It appears there’s a big hole there. Timothy deeply needed a godly man to enter his world. A man who would connect with him deeply, build him up, and call Timothy to a bigger life.
It seems undeniable that Paul must have done really well here. He clearly embraced the difference he could make in Tim’s life. Somehow their relationship was so deep that when they were together, Tim couldn’t help but tear up about how much Paul meant to him, and likely visa versa.
That raises a big question: Have you made a such a difference played in someone’s life that they couldn’t help but tear up when you said goodbye? If not, what might that be about?
#2) Embrace Depth
I know the word depth can be frightening. Who knows what we may run into if we really get to know someone’s heart? It can be overwhelming. We may have to refer them to a therapist, or set tough limits. Or, ride with them through tough seas. But, man, think of where your greatest joys come from. The richest, deepest joys come through deeper relationships. That’s just how God set it up.
Paul comes right out with a statement that underscores how much he valued deep connections, and with Timothy in particular here. He says: “I long to be with you.” Long to be with you. Wow. That is vulnerable. It says so clearly: “Timothy, you really matter to me. Tim, you are in my heart. Deep. Timothy, you have great worth and value in my eyes.” Imagine how filled up Timothy felt when he read those words.
The natural questions here are: How comfortable are you with greater depth? How much do you come right out and share how much someone matters to you? If not, why not? Please, go to the Lord and/or a close friend, or a good therapist about that, if you struggle with it.
#3) Embrace the Joy found in Close Relationships
This might sound odd. Or, even obvious. Yet, I’m guessing in our busyness or self-absorption, we can often miss this really important gift. I know that is true for me at times. This is the gift of letting ourselves embrace the joy that close relationships can bring. And then, to even go a step further and those people about it!
Paul models this beautifully when he directly tells Timothy that being with him fills him with joy. Wow, again. Part of what is incredible here is that Paul is the mentor, the one further along. One temptation in the mentor role is to hide behind a feigned superiority or aloofness. Not so with Paul. He comes right out and says it.
Imagine how blessed Timothy was by hearing his hero say that he is filled with joy when he is with him! Paul feels that way about me? Maybe I do have some important gifts. Maybe I do have real worth. Maybe I am really loved and valued, even by a man I greatly respect. That is the coolest thing.
I imagine Timothy was greatly encouraged and inspired by reading those wonderful words, and likely read them over and over, trying to take in more and more deeply such wonderful words.
The question: How much do you take time to really savor the joy those you are mentoring or leading bring to you? Then, do you tell them about it? If not, perhaps praying for a more generous, affirming spirit would be a good way to go.
When I read those words from II Timothy this morning, I was really taken by the power and beauty in what he wrote. When I expanded on it later in a conversation I was unexpectedly brought to tears. You, good reader, are called to know and experience what Paul and Timothy knew. You are called to enjoy the beauty and delight of depth in loving relationships.
May you be more and more open to and obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that you may live out the great joy and delight that comes through entering some people’s worlds really well.
Stay tuned for a cool story in the near future that fleshes this out even more. It has to do with one of my heroes.