To Everything There is a Season

*Inspired by the good preaching of Fr. Ken Simpson (09/26/2014)

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Sunrise over the Atlantic at Eastern Point Retreat House

I remember the first time I pulled an all-nighter in Chicago.  It was one of those, “I don’t want this night to end, so let’s stay up and watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan” kind of nights – which is always a brilliant idea in the moment, but you undoubtedly regret it the next day, yet continue to tell stories about it years later!

My friend Daniel was preparing to leave the windy city for a two-year volunteer commitment in Honduras.  Daniel and I were in prayer-group together, and for that short season in my life, he was a true soul-friend.  I was not looking forward to saying goodbye.

A week before Daniel’s departure, his roommates hosted a farewell party in their tiny garden apartment and adjacent backyard. It was a warm summer’s eve with card games and singing, and someone even passed around a sombrero at midnight to take a free-will offering for Daniel’s mission.

No one really wanted to leave.  Perhaps, if this night never ends, we could delay bidding good-bye to Daniel just a little while longer.  By 2:00 am, most of the weary faces began hailing cabs.  At 4:00 am, the last round of us were staving off sleep deprivation and laughing, because by that hour, everything is funny.  Then someone suggested that we head over to Lake Michigan.  After all, it was still summer, and sunrise could not be more than an hour or so away.

It was here, where I truly discovered what “kairos” means – God’s time.  The Greeks distinguish chronos (clock time) from kairos – the fullness of time.  Kairos is to live so completely in the moment that you lose all sense of chronological time.  Furthermore, sitting with legs draped over the rocks, lapping up splashes of tide, and watching the horizon change colors – I experienced a sense of timelessness.  Day and night became inseparable.

We humans have created calendars and ticking time pieces that mark the entrance of one day and the end of another.  But time itself is continuous.  God does not sleep.  Indeed, God created the sun and called it “day”.  God created the moon and the stars and called them “night”.   But time itself and the passage of time is endless and eternal.

That beautiful passage from Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every thing under the heavens.  A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance …

Ecclesiastes speaks of the fullness of time – not clock time, but God’s time.

Fall Harvest in Nebraska, 2009

There is a time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.  The farm-girl in me knows that ideally there is a DATE when plow overturns soil or when the combine takes its first sweep of the season.  But more realistically, there is a TIME to plant.  Which means a farmer breaks ground when the temperatures are moderate and the soil is not too moist.  Similarly, when it is TIME to harvest, there are not enough hours in the day (just ask my dad!) – even if that means running the combine for 14 hours at a stretch!

This lesson hits home for me most poignantly now during this time of transition in between jobs. As I sit with this scriptures at this TIME in my life, I wonder how God views my life.  Perhaps God does not see my time as employed and unemployed.

God sees the year I spent teaching, the steep learning curve of project management, long lasting friendships and family gatherings, the joy of graduate school, my time in campus ministry, late night conversations with students, weekends away on retreat, mission trips to Nicaragua and Haiti – all with their high-and-lows and in-betweens.  God does not see those as distinct, separate puzzle pieces.  Rather, in God’s eyes, life is one continuous plane.  The picture is already made whole.

There is a temptation to call time spent working as “good” and to name being unemployed as “bad”.  I don’t think God sees it this way.  (Although, I do not mean to down play the financial struggles that come as a result of being without work.  I feel that pinch, too.)

My spiritual director gave me some good advice recently.  He asked me to set a DATE.  Realistically – given your expenses, your commitments, your severance package, your savings – how long can you (comfortably) remain out of work?  Recognizing that we all have different financial obligations and sources of income, someone else in my situation might have a very different response.  For practical purposes though, it’s important to have a DATE in mind.  Because then, as my spiritual director reminded me, you are free to give the remaining TIME to God.

Since doing this little exercise, I’ve discovered that I have time to go to the gym and time to sleep.  Time to write and time to dream.  There is a time for networking and time for resume writing.  Time for prayer and time to practice my Spanish.

I still spend a significant number of HOURS (time) on the job search.  But I spend significantly less emotional energy worrying about what the future holds.  There will be a TIME when the right next thing comes along, even if that means hitting that “date” and taking a job in order to make ends meet.

There are certainly days when I wish this transition would be over already!  In those moments, I remind myself this is God’s time, also.  God’s vision for my life is much wider than mine.  God is endlessly patient, and God waits for us, because God sees all of time.

3 thoughts on “To Everything There is a Season”

  1. You are such an amazing person! I’m sure your path will lead to the right mission for you, even if not directly. I so admire and enjoy your writing. You probably don’t know me, but we met at Sheil.

  2. As always Beth, thank you for your sharing…it touches my heart and inspires me. I have been in a 12-step program for a number of years and as is the case with many of the principles, paradox is involved. For example, to let the power of God work in your life and empower you, you must first admit powerlessness and be willing to let go. For recovering folks in particular “time” can be a blessing, yet a gorilla on your back. We celebrate days of sobriety yet root our lives in the humility and power of “one day at a time.” Among the tools in my spiritual toolbox that I use to live life “one day at a time,” is this poem–for me, it’s a very powerful reminder to strive to live in the moment because that’s where the richness of life is experienced:

    Look to this day
    for it is life
    the very life of life.
    In its brief course lie all
    the realities and truths of existence
    the joy of growth
    the splendor of action
    the glory of power.

    For yesterday is but a memory
    And tomorrow is only a vision.
    But today well lived
    makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
    and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

    Look well, therefore, to this day.

    – ancient Sanskrit poem

    Other tools I use include acceptance–I keep reminding myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Also as you mentioned in your post, I must remind myself that things happen in God’s time–not on my schedule. Yet I need to balance God’s time with me doing the footwork, as you said setting some deadlines and goals. Also, keeping a grateful heart, being of service to others keeps me out of my head (a dangerous neighborhood) and ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. For me, giving of myself to others–service–is the key to my peace of mind. I must also pray for willingness and that I remain open to God’s will. My Mom who has severe dementia has taught me the grace of living in the moment. She is truly free, and almost as if she has been reborn, she has a giggly childlike buoyant spirit. My theory is that she is free to just “be” — her spirit is once again free, she is no longer bound by worrying about the past or fearing the future. …wow, I didn’t think that I would ever think of dementia in terms of the blessings of dementia. It’s ironic that she is living in the moment naturally when I have to “work” at living in the moment. (God does have a sense of humor 😉 Maybe for me just remaining open to God’s will and letting it be is the key… –P

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