Most likely there has been a time when you felt out of control when you were operating a vehicle.
Perhaps you were out on a boat in the middle of a lake or sea when the waves and wind began crashing. You might have been frantically guiding your car along an icy interstate. Maybe the fog surrounding your car made it difficult to tell where the bridge stopped and the space toward the river began.
The circumstances seemed to have more control of your vehicle than you did.
Those are similar feelings to the ones we have had during this pandemic, aren’t they? Every sniffle or cough makes you wonder if somehow you have contracted the disease. Each time you venture out in public, your mind tries to calculate how much more at risk you have become. We seem to be completely at the whim of winds of life.
When life is spinning out of control, we experience a wide range of uncomfortable emotions. The stress of the unknown creates tensions, which touch our physical, mental and spiritual selves. We feel powerless, unable to do anything that would affect the outcome of our circumstances. In reality, we don’t have to be in control, what we seek is a sense that someone we trust is in control. When we were younger, we felt content because we trusted our parents to provide a safe outcome.
The word privilege is being used in today’s news reports on several levels. Beyond the word, there is a sense of blessing that I experienced from the stability of parents who provided for my physical and emotional needs, while not neglecting spiritual needs. On several occasions on these pages, mention has been made that the earliest personal memories are ones that occurred in a church building.
Not everyone shares that privilege. A Father’s Day column always draws letters from someone whose earthly father displayed more detrimental influences than positive ones. Some indicate the father’s presence left the family while the child was at a very tender age. How important is the presence of a father – especially a father of faith?
Dr. David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers and co-director of the National Marriage Project, provides a summary: “Fathers are far more than just a ‘second adult’ in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother and that difference is important in healthy child development.” A role model of protection and support steady the fluctuating emotions of the child.
The Psychology Today website, certainly not considered a champion of conservative causes, recently ran an article titled, “Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger.” While not disparaging single mothers, the article cited the proof of research showing the disastrous results of the absence of a father. The struggles include a diminished self-concept, behavioral problems, delinquency and youth crime, including a tendency toward violence.
There is an interesting passage of Scripture that seemed appropriate to tackle, touching on many aspects of culture spinning out of control and the importance of a spiritual father. In his first letter to the younger Timothy, Paul uses an interesting phrase to describe their relationship in the opening two verses. The New Life Version scribes, “I am write to you, Timothy. You are my son in the Christian faith (1 Timothy 1:2). Paul filled that role in several ways. Although Timothy was raised in the Jewish faith by a dedicated mother and grandmother, Timothy’s father was not a believer. Paul led Timothy to an understanding of Jesus as the Messiah.
The New Testament gives glimpses of the relationship between Paul and Timothy, which spans some 20 years. We peek through a shadowy, shower-glass window at both a professional and personal dimension of mentoring and ministry. The image is made more clear by the words of the apostle himself, referring to Timothy as a “co-worker” (Romans 16:21, 1 Thessalonians 3:2), “son” (Philippians 2:22), “child” (1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2), and “brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1, Colossians 1:1).
Timothy is mentioned often as being in Paul’s presence and with Paul as he writes epistles (2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). Timothy is mentioned as being given tasks and away from Paul on strategic trips (1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Philippians 2:19-24). The two pastoral letters addressed to Timothy speak of the young man’s ministry and work at churches.
Paul’s secrets for a successful mentoring relationship, professionally and personally, were simple and not too secret. First, Paul invested time in Timothy. From the very beginning, Paul wanted to take Timothy along with him on his journeys (Acts 16:3). When writing to the Philippians about Timothy’s upcoming visit to them, Paul says of Timothy, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20 ESV). Timothy held a unique spot in Paul’s life and heart, one that was close enough that compassion, value and care could be transferred.
Paul also invested responsibility into Timothy. One of the rites of passage, from father to son or from executive to intern, is the trust to transfer leadership. By the time that Paul writes to Timothy a second time, Paul is handing a significant reign of authority in the churches to his younger friend. Only a few of the apostles remain alive, and Paul expects his own demise within months.
Paul’s hand on Timothy provided stability to trembling fingers, just the right grip and touch on the delicate steering wheel. Passing on his strength encourages Timothy to continue strong and courageous. He calls Timothy his “soul-mate” (Philippians 2:20) and “heir” (Philippians 2:22).
In times when our culture is being rocked by winds, waves and icy streets, we find ourselves asking, “What can one person of faith actually do?” Make sure you are being a parent in the faith to someone else, first in your physical family, but if not there, to one who is yearning for a hand on the shoulder.