Timothy, I thank God for you - the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:3-7, NLT)
It was most definitely a mixed marriage. Perhaps it was a broken home as well. The young woman had fallen for the Greek man (probably against her own mother's advice) and the union produced a son. He wasn't a strong boy physically, but the evidence we see tells us he had intellect, spirit, heart, and above all a great legacy of faith handed down to him.
Paul has known Timothy for some time when this second letter was written. He has helped to guide the young man's spiritual formation and has come to trust him implicitly to carry forth the Gospel when Paul either cannot or is no longer around. But the statement he makes regarding Timothy's heritage come as a challenge to me. Both Lois and Eunice are specifically tagged as having "genuine faith" and Paul explicitly states that they passed it on to Timothy. I can only infer (though logically so) that Lois passed this on to Eunice and they both participated in doing so with Timothy.
Mind you, this isn't a model family being called out here. That isn't Paul's point at all. We know the family is mixed with Timothy's father being a Greek. Since there is no mention of him participating in the legacy of faith, we can safely assume he either has ignored what is being taught by Eunice and Lois or that he simply isn't around any longer. Yet, the choices of these ladies to invest in Timothy are clear and they obviously produce lasting results.
Lois and Eunice have risen above whatever has happened in their lives to that point and embraced what God has offered in His love through the story He has given them. They have chosen to live in this better story rather than create their own. Paul sees this choice, the honoring of God in the way they have raised Timothy, and he latches on to it. He, too, will invest in Timothy's part in God's story and this second letter serves as the summation, starting with Timothy's legacy of faith. He goes on to encourage this young servant to be faithful and true to that legacy and to reinvest in others so they also might see the benefits of a personal faith in God.
As I write this post, there is activity in the house by my two daughters. It causes me to think about the legacy I provide for them, how I invite them into God's bigger and better story for their own lives. This is an intensely personal thing to be certain (meaning the choice is ultimately theirs to make), but we still have a charge to pass what we have learned on to coming generations. God has placed us in a relational world for just that reason. Timothy didn't grow up the way he did all alone and we shouldn't expect others to do so either. The legacy we leave is important.
My travels on this Crooked Path are sometimes lonely, sometimes filled with people, but they are never alone. In addition to my Older Brother who travels each step with me, I have a legacy of family and influential people who have crossed my path and traveled with or ahead of me. Some have traveled well and given me much to ponder for my own journey. Some have not traveled as well and end up being more like adversaries or stumbling stones. Some will approach and try to get me to quit the path as futile. I am the sum of the life I have lived and I need to pass what I learn on to those who follow and those I come across. We never know when a single encounter will produce something that lasts for eternity. Legacies speak volumes. What does yours say about you?
- Did somebody invest in you? Was it a positive, enduring experience that shapes the way you think and act today?
- Does it surprise you to know that Timothy's upbringing was as mixed as it was? Are there points in what we know about it that you can identify with?
- Have you thought about your legacy much lately? Are you taking the time to invest in somebody else so they might learn and grow?