The Mask of Loneliness
“Do your best to come to me quickly…When you come, bring … my scrolls, especially the parchments…but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack…To him be glory for ever and ever…Do your best to get here before winter” 2 Timothy 4:9-21.
Loneliness is one of the toughest emotions to shake. People experience it daily and it masquerades around in costumes that we don’t even recognize. When my father-in-law lived with us his final year of life, I experienced loneliness like I never had before. With caregivers at the home daily to assist me it seems I shouldn’t have felt lonely. But during that time, I felt no one could relate to my circumstances. I was a daughter-in-law caring for my father-in-law on every level. It would have been a different landscape totally had it been my own parent with 52 years of history, relationship, and fellowship. But the target of adversity rarely lands in expected places.
Paul wrote this passage during the final years of his life. He so desperately wanted fellowship in prison so he reached out and wrote to his friend Timothy. I wonder how long he sat there in loneliness before he wrote this letter. I wonder at what point he turned lonely thoughts into healthy actions. In considering this, I wonder how long we sit in our self-made prisons waiting for others to attend to our emotional needs. When do we finally determine that we have responsibilities in our deliverance? On another note, Paul asked for Timothy to bring his scrolls and parchments. Scholars differ on what this request truly was but most feel like the scrolls were for intellect purposes while the parchment was most likely parts of the Old Testament. Just as important as fellowship was his desire to stay mentally and spiritually challenged. I am reminded of how my grandmother surrounded herself in the assisted living home with her writings and God’s Word in the final two years of her life. When we feel lonely, do we place as much importance on our spiritual and mental intellect as we do on our emotions of the flesh? Paul also wrote of future rescues by the Lord. I wonder if our letters would echo this belief that God has both love and power to rescue us from our lonely place.
Paul closes his letter with a second plea for a visit but still selflessly thinks of Timothy. When he encourages his friend to come before winter it is for Timothy’s safety, not Paul’s desperation. For me, this is the most tender moment between these friends. Paul doesn’t guilt his friend into coming, nor is his absence held against him. These friends have pure love for each other at the base of their relationship. One of my greatest blessings is the unconditional love, acceptance and fellowship between me and my precious friends. True friends focus on how to be better friends instead of focusing on how their friends can be better. Love always works for the benefit of the other.
‘A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ Proverbs 18:24. ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ John 15:13.