Thursday, 23 August 2012

Women of the Bible: Lois - Timothy's Grandmother

Paul befriended Timothy for his journey whilst he was in Lystra, modern Turkey (Acts 16:1-3) and from then on grew in his love for this man. Paul calls Tim his “co-worker” (Romans 16:21), his “son whom [he loves]” as well as his “true son in the faith” (1 Corinthians 4:17 & 1 Timothy 1:2, respectively), his “brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1) and a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1). Paul even displays 360° discipleship as he offers his dear one some apothecary advice out of concern for his health, telling him to take care of his stomach and frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23). Most prominently Timothy is described to the church in Corinth as one who will remind them of Paul’s Christ-like ways. Timothy reflects Paul, who reflects Jesus. As Timothy is discipled by Paul, he imitates not only his earthly Rabbi but also his heavenly one. His life is an example of healthy discipleship, where leaders aren’t afraid for their followers to be like them, trusting that the leader is following the right person too.

But this is a series on women of the Bible. And although the phrase “behind every great man is a great woman” has become a slogan for feminist movements which people can sometimes get angst about, two women in Timothy’s life get a mention and it does seem that behind this great man, there are two great women.

In the opening of Paul’s second letter to Timothy he gives thanks to God, remembers Timothy’s tears, and longs to see his son again in order to be full of joy (v.4). He then refers to his friend’s “sincere faith”. Timothy’s faith was wholehearted, deep, genuine, and honest. But where did he get it from? “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice” (v.5).

There are only 2 grandmothers mentioned in the Bible, and Lois makes the cut for one of them. It is notable that unlike many of the other characters in the Bible who are listed in genealogies by their paternal tracks, Timothy is recounted maternally. For a man of such a high status in Paul’s heart, it is very encouraging to read that Timothy has his faith passed on predominantly by his grandmother. Not only did she do a fantastic job at passing it onto her daughter Eunice, but this faith also reached young Timothy. I wonder if in that household Lois would recite the Torah to the toddling Tim, if as a young boy Timothy could see Lois’ faith at work as she began to grow old and maintain her joy, if when she died Timothy was around to witness her peace. All things to speculate on but the nature of much biblical narration provides space for readers to dream up something of the bits in between and make the journey more lifelike.

The other grandmother mentioned is Maakah who had the privilege of being the grandma of Asa, a king of Judah of the house of David (1 Kings 15). At first she only gets a mention, and Asa reigned as a man who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.” This was also a good grandmother, who surely must have had some role in raising Asa to follow God. It takes a village to raise a child, and Grandmothers are a key member of this village! Sadly, Asa had to remove Maakah from her office as queen mother after she makes a “repulsive image” and like all but one person in the Bible commits a sin in the midst of greatness. But, the point is that she is the only other grandmother in scripture and can surely take some responsibility for her grandson’s nature which was to follow God. Sure, she had a bad day (or two), but name one Granny who doesn’t!

My Grandma died when I was in year six, just two years before I asked Jesus to come into my life and I put my life in Him. As far as the fruit can tell, my dear Grandma Kath is the only Christian in my family and I can guarantee that as a strong, incredibly loving, and very child-friendly woman she would have prayed for me without ceasing. In the grand scheme of my life my Grandma may get a relatively small mention. I would probably celebrate my favourite memory of her as when I would be ill from school and get to spend a day with her and Granddad. Without fail she would make tuna sandwiches and homemade chips for lunch and we’d watch Neighbours. There would be no grandiose story of the two of us, just the memory of her loving support as I grazed my knee, cried after a hard time on the playground, or sought shelter from my horrid big brother.

Maybe Lois gets such a wee mention because often a Grandmother’s work is behind the scenes, all taking place with years of wisdom advising parenting, smiles, prayers and the obedient passing on of faith to those she loves.

I am encouraged to read the mention of Lois in Paul’s thankfulness to God of his dear friend Timothy, and am thankful myself to my own Grandma for passing the faith on to me in ways I will not fully see for a long time. What a joy for me to know she is in the cloud of witnesses, championing me on, and restored to life like she never knew whilst here on Earth.

To all the Grandmothers out there – keep being you, love with all your heart, and pass on the faith.

Kate Moreton

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