“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
I’ve had a tiny piece of paper with this Bible verse written on it hanging on my bulletin board in my room since 6th grade, when my dad initially wrote it and hung it up himself. I was emotionally struggling in school at the time, and I think he must’ve kindly thought that it was a valuable message that would benefit me to hear. I’ve kept it up there ever since, and though it was never one of the Bible verses that meant the most to me, it had a special place in my heart as a message from both my heavenly father and earthly father (clever, I know, lol) that I should remember. Though I never thought super deeply about its meaning, it never fully made sense to me as a Biblical command. Aren’t we told that the meek shall inherit the earth? How does God give us power when he’s ultimately in control? These are questions I always had but never took the time to figure out.
In June I decided to memorize and study a specific Bible verse, which was something I often did early in high school but haven’t done as much in recent years. I was unsure of which to pick, which would reflect the season of my life that I’m in currently, and then my eyes fell upon that note my dad wrote in 6th grade hanging on my bulletin board. Without thinking too much about it, I decided that 2 Timothy 1:7 would be my verse of the summer.
As a kid, I read this verse and all it created in my mind was questions about God’s authority. Again, how can we have any power over our lives when God is in ultimate control? Self-discipline is obvious, but how does that coincide with a lack of timidity?
This summer is a very unique summer in the lives of everyone my age, and everyone who has ever been my age, in academic history. The Summer Before College is one widely characterized as either the greatest party of your life, or the most confusing and isolating months of your life. Pop culture tells you to blow off steam but also get your life together before you start to live away from your family. I’m sure it’s even more so this way right after graduating college, but I’ll just focus on the anxiety of the present, haha. It has this very strange feeling of nervous excitement and impending responsibility. You’re about to be in charge of yourself! :) But you’re also about to be in charge of yourself. :( Taking out college loans, arranging solo travel info, preparing to take responsibility over your lifestyle and personal aspirations. But the fact that you have all that responsibility means you’re finally in the position to chase your dreams and learn more about your passions. It’s super confusing. Do I feel sad that I just graduated and will never see most of my friends again? Do I feel excited that what could be the greatest adventure of my life is about to start? Is it possible to feel both, or will my emotional processing system just give up and go into overdrive? I’m joking, but the emotional confusion is real.
In the midst of this confusion, the verse I had assigned myself to memorize suddenly made sense to me! Do not be timid – as I had misunderstood earlier, this doesn’t mean don’t be gentle and kind. It can mean to have confidence! Understand that as you grow older, you must take life by the lapels and shake it into what you want it to be. You can do this with gentleness and love, but you must believe that your decisions are the main thing that impact what becomes of you. God has the ultimate say, but you must spur the decisions to eventually get to his will for you. At least that’s my half-baked understanding as of this moment. God’s spirit gives us power, love, and self-discipline – this part always made slightly more sense to me. Be strong but loving, have good self-management skills. Pretty simple and solid. However, this summer has given me slightly more understanding there as well. God’s spirit equips us to navigate the world as Christians, leading with love but having a strong-rooted knowledge of right and wrong. The idea that you can inherently love others without believing everything they believe is something that took me a while to realize, and even now it’s hard to practice, but with God’s spirit we can do so with joy! Leading with love, but understanding that you have power over yourself to have self-discipline and make the choices that God is calling you to.
This verse took on a whole new meaning and understanding for me this summer and I’m so excited about what it showed me. I'm confident that I'll learn even more about it but it's still so special right now. God’s spirit! What a blessing to navigate the world with! While this summer is a strange period in my and my peers’ lives, I’m so so excited for what’s ahead. Only 13 more days til I fly to Savannah, Georgia for the next great adventure!! Nervous, joyful, apprehensive, and excited. Lot’s of packing and planning to do. Let’s go!
[Enjoy these experimental light painting self portraits I did back during the last few weeks of school! They're what gave me the inspiration for my "Running with Light" final photography project, and I still love them.]