2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.
God’s message through Paul is clear. Paul explains to Timothy to use the spirit that He gave you. Spread His message sensibly with love and strength. Fear does not come from God. Fear is evil working its way through our soul.
Don’t you wonder why Paul felt it was necessary to write to Timothy? My guess is that Timothy was in a rut. Spreading God’s message through his actions and words must have been exhausting and a little bit scary. Timothy needed a pep talk, and Paul used his amazing writing skills to do this. Sometimes when we try hard to spread God’s message we push through our own agenda, and it becomes exasperating. Our bodies and minds tire from all the turmoil, and we cannot understand why people aren’t listening to us.
Throughout my life I have felt God’s call to accept people where they are and meet them there. Not only in religious settings, but also as a teacher. Sometimes we want those around us to be exactly where we are spiritually and intelligently. We don’t want them to be too far ahead or too far behind, but come on now, that is impossible (and quite frankly, boring).
Wanting people on the same page as you is pretty common. You see it all the time. Recently, I rejoined Facebook. While I love the ideas for teaching lessons to my middle school students, I hate the rhetoric that goes along with it. People fighting with each other over politics. People spewing hate over who is to blame. People using all their energy to convince others that their view is the best. All the while making themselves look “right” while enforcing that others are “wrong.”
When I find myself scrolling down through it all, I encounter extreme exhaustion. It just seems that God’s Will becomes the back-burner, and the individual will fight his/her way through for the “win.” These actions and words fall on deaf ears because these people are pushing everyone to become just like them – and we all know that isn’t going to happen. Pride begins to set in. Stubbornness blocks hearts. Anger takes over. Divisions occur. God will eventually provide a good humbling situation, and trust me God is always quick to provide this. I personally know.
I know because it has happened to me. After multiple times of being on the receiving end of God’s redirection, I came to the realization that I was not meeting people where they were in life. I was pushing them to be just like me, to think just like me, and to become mini-me.
If we all were in the same place in life, it would get a little crowded, and I hate crowds. Crowds make me uncomfortable. They really would make me uncomfortable if we all looked and acted the same. So why am I wanting everyone to think and act just like me? Honestly, I don’t even like myself sometimes, so why would I think I am the role model for the perfect Christian? Talk about uncomfortable. Who would I look to for wisdom? Who would provide me with new ideas and inspiration?
If I don’t want everyone to look and act like me, then what do I want? What I have found (don’t get me wrong I still struggle with this) is that when we accept people where they are at, then we receive the benefit of their perspective. Some of my biggest leaps in life have been because I have accepted spiritual advice from those much wiser. Their strength, love and sensibility inspired me to be a better Christian. Some of my biggest “aha” moments have been from those who I considered a little behind me spiritually (which I know sounds pompous, but stay with me on this). These beautiful people reminded me of the gift of seeing Christ through a child’s eye. It inspired me to go back and take a second look at my path. It humbled me.
Interestingly enough some of the best conversations have been with those who had a different idea of spirituality. These amazing friends have shown me the beauty of acceptance and love. These friends are the ones that taught me the beauty of accepting and loving people where they are in the moment.
Paul sees that Timothy is struggling, so he gives Timothy an inspirational letter to go out and motivate people with strength and love, but don’t forget to be sensible about it. I cannot help but believe that Paul wanted Timothy not only to inspire, but to be inspired. He wanted Timothy to increase his faith. He understood that Timothy had already learned great things from his family, and didn’t want Timothy to keep that under a bushel basket. He also didn’t want Timothy to go ram that light down someone’s throat. He wanted Timothy to do it with grace, with good sense, and with a strong spirit.
I know I could use a letter like that. Here is the good news: Paul wrote that letter for Timothy, but he published it for all to see. Paul is writing that letter to each of us. Go spread the Good News! Use the spirit that God gave you to do so, but don’t forget to soak in the wisdom around you. Don’t forget to listen and hear the cries of all. Don’t forget to nurture your own spirit with goodness and grace. Don’t forget to meet everyone where they are at, not where you want them to be.