At my church, like at many others, the youngest children are dismissed partway through the service for a time of worship and exploration of the word that is specifically designed for little minds. One of the things I love about the way it is done at my church (we use Young Children and Worship developed by Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman) is that it gives children a chance to wonder about the text for that week. What a powerful tool wondering is. Children have a remarkable ability to wonder. If you’ve ever been peppered by a five year old’s non-stop questioning you’ll know exactly what I mean. But we adults sometimes need to work at wondering.
I have found that if I actually want to get something out my wondering I have to let my imagination engage. I can’t get bogged down in legalism or literalism or any other ism. After all, that’s not what children do. They don’t get caught up on if the feeding of the 5,000 was just men or if there were extra women and children. They are free to wonder, “did the bread taste good?” or “Were the fish smelly?” When I explored the widows of the bible I wrote pages and pages of wondering as I connected my own experience to their stories. Now, wondering has become one of my favorite ways to study the bible. It provides such a sacred opportunity to inhabit these stories. An unexpected, but welcome, side-effect is that that the wonderings are now starting to move in the other direction. My own experiences are drawing me back to wonder at these holy texts.
Now, as I settle into my Jesus year-that’s right, I’m 33- and I shift into more leadership roles both personally and professionally I have a new wondering. What was it like for Timothy? As a person who values intergenerational friendships and mentorship I completely understand Timothy’s relationship with Paul. I imagine Timothy saw in Paul a person of great wisdom and faith a person he could learn from and grow under. By all accounts Timothy did just that. Paul would refer to Timothy as his son indicating their close personal relationship and on top of that they were partners in ministry-each depending on the other.
But the problem with mentorships and intergenerational friendships is that the parties are usually in different stages of life. So one will inevitably be left behind. And that’s what happened with Paul and Timothy; eventually, Paul left and Timothy was on his own. Obviously, those circumstances were a bit heavier on the persecution side and a bit less like the retirements or moves of today but we’re gonna stick with the metaphor (remember, we’re not getting caught up in all the isms). So here’s what life has lead me to wonder about Timothy.
I wonder if Timothy felt woefully unprepared for the task ahead of him? I wonder if he wished Paul could stay longer? I wonder if Timothy thought about going rogue and following Paul anyway? I’m sure Timothy knew that Paul wouldn’t be with him forever but I wonder if he convinced himself that he had more time? At least another year or at least one more journey? I wonder if Timothy resented the instructions that were sent via letter and longed for the way things used to be? Did Timothy ever feel like everyone was just comparing him to Paul?
I wonder if Timothy agonized over the words to use to show Paul just how much he appreciated everything he had done? If Timothy ever told Paul how much his teachings allowed his faith to grow? Did Timothy ever acknowledge that Paul’s tutelage gave him a more expansive and inclusive view of Christianity than he ever could have imagined? I wonder if Timothy told Paul that without his support and guidance he may have walked away from the faith? I wonder if Timothy wept over the shift in what was such a precious collaboration? What if Timothy was too much of a chicken to express his true feelings in person so he wrote a blog using thinly veiled metaphors? Ok, so some of those might not be ~just~ about Timothy…
But mostly I wonder if Timothy felt ready. Did he know deep in his core that he had been made for such a time as this? That he could continue the ministry and give support to those who needed it? Or was it more of a fake it ’til ya make it type of scenario? I wonder if, even as he mourned the loss of Paul, Timothy knew this was the way it needed to be. That this was hard, and scary, and completely non-preferred but this was how his faith would continue to grow. Because, after all, it was never Paul who was leading. It was God.