This weekend, our church went to the Sawtooth Mountains for All Church Camp.
It was great. Good to have a different pace. Nice to have time for random conversations with no worry about what time it was or what was next on the schedule. Fun to sing around the campfire. We were generally ‘off the grid’, in a valley where cell coverage was spotty at best, so the constant barrage of news and info usually at my fingertips came to a stop for a few days too.
We used Ecclesiastes 3 as the focus for the retreat.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
In our conversations, though, we acknowledged the “time to” categories are rarely (if ever) stand alone moments in our lives. Often the “time to laugh” happens at a death bed, in between moments of “time to weep” and “time to mourn”.
Further on in the passage, the author writes:
“That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.”
I found those words so very comforting. Some days I need the reminder that for each “time to” in my life, God is already there, has already been there, and will always be there. We may be stuck experiencing time in a linear fashion, but God is not.
In our family, we’re preparing for the “time to send your son off to college” (which must be listed later in the book of Ecclesiastes). And it is a time to be proud, and a time to buy dorm supplies at Target, and a time to feed him his favorite dishes, and a time to take deep breaths so I don’t freak the hell out. All of those “time to” at the same time.
Generally, I’m doing better than I expected to be doing at this particular “time to”. Will there be tears? Oh, for sure. (In my defense, I cry at Hallmark and Folgers commercials, so this question may be a bit obvious…) As much as he will be missed in our day-to-day life, I know he is as ready for this time to go to college as one can be.
I’ve noticed I’m trying to not really stop time, or even slow it down, yet I want to attend to it with more detail. I really want to snuggle up inside this “time to” and use it all up, not leaving any to go to waste.
Too often I worry I’m skipping over the surface of the times in my life, busy and filled with distractions. So I’m grateful for this reminder to stop and really dive into this time. And it reminds me that all of life is a “time to” do something. Once Alden goes to college, it will be the time to get Elliott started at Boise High School and the time to send Justin off to Haiti for his yearly trip. It will be time to enjoy the leaves changing colors and then the time to wax my cross country skis in preparation for the time to be cold.
Each day is its own gift that gets added to the totality of our lives.
A friend is on the winning side of a cancer battle right now, and for that I’m so damn grateful to hear his good news. He recounted to me how horribly painful it was to record videos for his kids, that he wanted to leave for them in case he died from this cancer battle. And how grateful he is for the chance to live another day to have the “time to” tell them how much he loves them.
Which is, of course, an important reminder for all of us. Whether we have a diagnosis or not, life is fragile and finite.
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover God has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know there is nothing better for them than to be happy, and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat, and drink, and take pleasure in all their toil.” (3:11-13)
What time is it for you? How do you attend to time?