When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 2 Timothy 4:13
When Paul made this request of Timothy, we was imprisoned and quite alone, others having left for various reasons. In his trial of isolation, forced social-distancing, all the while being restricted in his activities, Paul sought the companionship of Timothy and asked that he bring some personal items Paul had left in Troas. In difficult times, when we are struggling with our own imprisonments, quite against our will, Paul’s request speaks figuratively about what we may do spiritually in such circumstances.
When a trial comes upon us uninvited and unwelcome, our comfort is in relationships. We also recognize who offers true companionship, those who are of shared faith. We realize too that something we left behind, not because it was not valuable but maybe due to the necessities of what we were doing at the time, now is crucial. We retrieve resources which are needed now, knowing that God has providentially foreseen just such a time. We are motivated by a new urgency to sort through what it is we are carrying with us, and to see with new clarity what we truly need.
The current disruptions, forced changes, and challenges call for such a rethinking. What is our cloak, but to be clothed with Christ (Romans 13:4, Galatians 3:27), which is the same as saying that we are to be wrapped in love (Colossians 3:14). To counter our hardships we seek intensely the love of Christ. We have never actually left Christ in some other city, but perhaps during easier times we have not been as aware of the necessity of this being clothed in Christ, and we must reclaim our identity in Him more intentionally.
As Paul asked for his books and parchments, we too harken back in our mind and heart to earlier learning as well as looking forward to new endeavors. The books contain what had shaped and helped him in the past, but the parchments were writing materials . . . and Paul wants to keep writing. Being in the midst of such a difficult time is really this type of middle place of sorting, where we understand with new purposefulness what from the past is truly important, and what will be significant in the future. Our trials and struggles are not times to withdraw from activity, to close in on ourselves and wait out the storm, hiding in our forced isolation. Instead, we need to write something new from where we find ourselves. What we will write is through the service we offer to the world, words not written with ink but on human hearts and “read by all” (2 Corinthians 3:2).
The life of faith is lived from wherever we are, and not from where we wish we were. Searching for the resources that God has provided within the arc of our own story, along the way of our collective journey, is to rediscover the grace that has been given. The gifts that will sustain us through months of imprisonment are found in the fellowship of others of shared faith, our life within Christ, sustained by the teaching we received, and through the way we will discover to write from this new circumstance. All this God has provided.