This month, as we remember Mother’s Day, I want to remember two women: Lois, the grandmother of Timothy, and Eunice, Timothy’s mother. There is precious little in the Bible that tell directly about these women or their lives, but there is enough for us to get a handle. We can know their place in history, and we can also to catch a glimpse of calling in their lives. It’s a calling we share, I think.
Lois and Eunice show us a mother and a grandmother who loved a young life enough to give away their most precious possession: the gift of faith. To describe that faith, the word translated “sincere,” literally, “without hypocrisy.” Lois and Eunice showed Timothy by word and example what it means to live an unstaged, authentic faith. What greater tribute could any of us receive on any day than for another to say: “You gave me authentic faith!”
Lois and Eunice are mentioned by name at the beginning of the second letter to the young pastor Timothy. We hear the Apostle Paul’s voice declare: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Tim.1:5)
These women are remembered with a kind of affection suggests some sort of a personal relationship. Perhaps Paul met Lois, Eunice and Timothy on his first missionary journey when he visited their home in Lystra. What we know for sure is that when Paul returned later to Lystra, Timothy was already a respected disciple of Jesus: “Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:1-2)
Eunice was a Jewish woman in a mixed marriage as a faithful Jewish wife to a Gentile husband. Lois, who was probably Eunice’s mother, was also a believer. Perhaps she lived with Eunice, helping her bring up young Timothy. Paul tells us that as a young child, Timothy learned the Scriptures: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:14-15)
“You know those from whom you’ve learned it!” Who are “they” we read about here? I read this and can only think that about Lois and Eunice (and maybe others unnamed) who are invested in Timothy’s formation in faith. Because of their faithful lives, Timothy was familiar enough with the Scriptures to be “wise for salvation.” When he heard the gospel—the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus—he recognized it as the fulfillment of everything God had promised in the Scriptures Eunice and Lois taught him. These women also teach us the most important way we relate to others, especially the children, in our lives.
The story is told of four ministers discussing their preferred English translation of the Bible. One said he preferred the King James Version of Scripture for its eloquent use of the English language. Another reported that for her, no Bible could match the New American Standard for its literal renderings of the original Greek and Hebrew text. The third preferred the Good New Version for its contemporary language and easy readability. After a thoughtful period of silence, the fourth minister said, “I like my mother’s translation best.”
Surprised, the others said: “We didn’t know that your mother had translated the Bible!”
“Yes, she did,” he replied. “She translated it into her daily life, and it was through her translation that I came to faith.”
When Mr. Rogers won the Emmy lifetime achievement award 1997, he said in his acceptance speech:
So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here. Some are far away. Some are even in heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time…Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made!
As the camera panned across the audience, many of the actors, actresses and dignitaries teared up during and beyond those ten seconds of silence.
All of us have special ones who have loved us into being children of God. Some here. Some far away. Yes, some are even in heaven where they join the saints around the throne still praying and for us. We all have had spiritual parents. Will you be that for someone else?
It’s certainly something to consider as Mother’s Day comes our way.
Grace and Peace,