Life’s Seasons

To everything there is a season,
    A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, 
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck 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 cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    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 of war,
    And a time of peace.
 -Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
This is as true today as it has been since it was written, centuries ago. There is a sadness to this passage, but also a comfort. It is a reminder that, if the season in which I find myself now is joyful and easy, it will not last. And if the season in which I find myself now is difficult, it will pass.

Life changes, and with it, we change. The things that used to satisfy us, the things we used to desire, we desire no more.  Things we did not used to understand, we now appreciate. We have all been told that one of life’s certainties is change. We have also been told that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I say the more things change, the more we confirm that the driving forces behind that change remain the same. Some things are universal beyond the basics of food and shelter: our desire to be understood, to be deeply connected to others, to be seen as who we are. I would propose that changes to our individual lives and to our society (present technological advances being a perfect example) are all efforts to achieve these desires.

So our lives are made up of chapters, each distinct. And while some are overwhelmingly happy and others disparaging difficult, I’d say that most are a unique combination of treasures and challenges. It’s easy enough to wish the hard ones away (and wish them good riddance when they’re over), but it’s much harder to stop and embrace the good chapters, or even the good moments of the mundane chapters. Advice abounds for surviving rough patches, most of it basically saying to just hang on; it won’t last forever. But what about advice for appreciating the moments of bliss? More importantly, how does one hang onto these moments? 

I suppose this is why people take pictures or videos, write journals, or create scrapbooks. We attempt to capture a moment in such a way that an image, a passage, or a sound will bring back the bliss of that moment. It’s as if we–I should say I–want to collect all the good stuff of life and put it somewhere to be accessed and enjoyed over and over. Sometimes we succeed in capturing these moments, but I would venture to say that even this is not enough. 

We don’t want to remember that moment, we want to return to it. We want life to be now just how it was then. We want to return to that chapter, that sweet spot, and stay. Right there. Not move.

Life will not comply with this desire, of course. And in the end, we wouldn’t want it to. How stale a life that would be if everything was always good and nothing ever challenged us, pushed us, stressed us. We know this. Our lives are made up of chapters. Each chapter, each time, will end, to be followed by another. That’s just the way it is. 

My challenge is to recognize each time as it comes, and to live it. If in nothing else, life will always be rich in change, both welcome and unwelcome. I will still try to capture the good moments, of course, because I do love my camera, and I do love the pen (keyboard?). But I will not pine for those moments. As a Christian, I know that life holds wonders and joy far greater than any collection I could store up, because there is much I do not yet know and much I have not yet seen. While I work to reach that life,  I will still appreciate the good times for what they are, be grateful for them, and when the time comes, let them go. 

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