Being Beloved

Come Before Winter

Do your utmost to come before winter. - 2 Timothy 4:21

It is the first of December. The end of the year. December seems slow and tempts me with thoughts of joining in the fun of winding down, celebrating an anniversary, filling my oven with chocolate chip cookies, listening to Christmas music, walking outside where the air feels crisp and clear. December does not lack its charm. But as charming as it may be a Sunday morning sermon titled, “The Integrity of Finishing Well” reminds me I’m not quite done.

Chuck Swindoll does a great job of showing the apostle Paul in his last days contemplating his faithful walk. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2Timothy 4:6-8)

Paul writes to Timothy as someone might still write today. A desire to see Timothy as well as an encouraging reminder that the same faith that began in his grandmother Lois has been kept strong in his mother Eunice and still dwells within the soul of Timothy. Paul informs Timothy that he has been abandoned, that only Luke is still with him. The whole of this letter from Paul to Timothy seems so intimate, so relatable to today.

Paul talks of finishing, already being used up or “poured out.” He isn’t done but he senses he is almost done. An ending of physical life must have been in sight. He didn’t seem fearful. Paul was hopeful reveling in unseen things that left behind marks in his physical world.

The world where winter was coming and a coat would be nice: “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13) His body needed warmth and his soul needed words. His mind still seemed sharp and his heart was still humble, even after all he had done and experienced in his life. I want to finish like that.

I love that Paul asks Timothy to bring him his books and his coat. It seems so normal and everyday. I am close enough to done. I could call it a year but when it is so obviously God moving in my life or is it me more in tune with his ways of communication?

I have quit before being finished, and simply enjoyed December or the summer or the weekend. I’ve even felt like God has wanted me to just rest and enjoy. This December is different though, from the Sunday sermon to Monday’s devotional where nuggets of truth minister to my soul. Reminders that he has gone before me and I will not be moved.

The beautiful way our Lord reveals directions and plans. “I have set the Lord before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:8) “Come before winter” feels like an invitation this December. I want to live here in this place where I feel my faith is being engaged and therefore used as a muscle might be used to gain strength.

I will try, I hope we all try to live with the knowledge he is right there with us. His Presence is constant as he shows me what is good. He is a noble companion, my example of what holy looks like, He sees my tears and consoles me, we are sad-hurt-lost but also we are joyful-peaceful-healing. There can be both, of course, there is both. It is his love that intrigues us most.

His love is a catalyst that guides us to the right questions and the right answers. Our curiosity opens our eyes to see and our ears to hear. We see the smile of friendship that says, “yes, me too.” We see God as human flesh walking about as Emmanuel, God With Us. Empathy rather than judgment.

It seems to always come back to remembering the love of the one asking for our obedience. The God who is asking for us to follow, to start, to stop, to wait, to move…to come before winter, is the same one that bent down and washed the disciple’s feet. He wants my soul that is all. He is perfecting my soul as he was still perfecting Paul’s in later life.

I need to remember I am being perfected as I walk into the horizon of his vision. He sees more than me. There are always reasons that are as personalized as fingerprints of why God is guiding us here now or over there before. A well-lived spiritual life looks unique for each of us. What is on your heart? What thoughts creep into your mind but seem rushed right back out as if stolen away?

Recognizing the spiritual world, both the energy of love and the energy of hate. When my Father says, “you will not be moved” I can be assured that no fear, no force, no fraud, will move me. To be able to see this happen twice in my life is an experience that grounds me yet also invigorates me. A faithful certainty and amazing disbelief all comingled, not like chaos but rather like creation, like a symphony.

Something that has the potential to be loud, obnoxious, chaotic but in the right hands with the right instrument, the right person with the right knowledge of the beauty that could be, then it is a work of art that touches all that experience it. It is all so fragile. So easily misconstrued or destroyed. I might not know how I will not be moved, but if I wait patiently and quietly, willing to go either way I see it play out in front of me.

Circumstances rearrange and hearts change all the while words are served up on Sunday morning and leftovers again on Monday and I see it clearly as one who has a slow-growing faith is able to. I was willing but I was praying for another way. Living words of God I get to see. You will not be moved. I wasn’t.

And then when we are not moved we are able to do what God gave us the gift to do. I will finish because I feel God is guiding me to finish. There may still be hurdles but maybe before winter, I will be done.

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