“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” asks the poet Mary Oliver.
Paul has specific plans for Timothy’s life. His letter reads almost like a to do list. He has solid advice for Timothy:
…Set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity…Do not neglect your gift which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 1 Timothy 4:12…14
I wonder what it looked like for Timothy to put these words into action. Paul’s words ask me to consider how can I get beyond life’s daily distractions to be functionally and authentically more like Jesus. I am tempted to write the words “speech”, “life”, “love”, “faith” and “purity” on 5 small stones and drop them in my pocket to serve as a physical reminder of what I am to guard. Perhaps that small tug of their weight will encourage me to hold my tongue or respond in faith instead of react in fear.
Then there is Paul’s encouragement to take a spiritual gift seriously and nurture it. It would silly and ungrateful to ignore or deny a gift received. Why should a spiritual gift be any different? Paul’s words ask me to consider how I can be more intentional about nurturing the gifts God has placed in me.
Here’s my favorite line of Paul’s advice:
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:15,16.
Paul implies that spiritual maturity isn’t about getting things right the first time; it’s about falling down and getting up again. It’s about learning and growing. Being a leader requires a tenacity in guarding one’s heart, yet being vulnerable and transparent enough for others to see God’s grace work its wonder. In turn, the follower doesn’t get to stand in place while pointing an accusing finger at the fallen leader. She watches and learns from the leader who humbly stands back up and returns to the calling.