By Sally García
Popular messages today are teaching us to live in the moment, to practice mindfulness, to take a deep breath… But sometimes our moments are more than moments—they stretch out into seasons. And that requires taking more than one breath. One of the wonderful things about getting older is that I have lived for many seasons, and so have many of my friends. These seasons have given us insights, and as we go about collecting experiences, they become like jewels to be treasured.
I have not always felt this way. When I was younger and faced a difficult situation, I wouldn’t see past the obstacle. I’d feel like the problem would never end. I didn’t have the experience to know that, sooner or later, I would come out on the other side of the challenge—most likely wiser and better off from the experience.
Then one day, the first few verses from Ecclesiastes 3 changed my whole mindset, like the proverbial “eureka moment,” or more aptly put, the “voice of the Lord.” I read that:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which 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 together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, 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.
It spoke to me so deeply that I committed it to memory (a real challenge to keep it all straight), and every time I have reviewed it, new applications come to mind. For example, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing can be when someone I love is far away, or it can be the situation I’m in at the time of writing this, when we show love by upholding the health quarantine.
After the tsunami and earthquake crisis of 2010 in Chile, we became close friends with many families that spent three hard, rainy, cold, muddy winters in flimsy temporary housing. It seemed like an eternity. The immediate common objective was to be able to once again live in stable, warm and dry homes. During those three years, they experienced intensely a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away. Then, the day came when the last temporary camps finally closed, and every family had their own home or apartment. It was a time to laugh and a time to dance.
And life has gone on. The time in the camps has become one more of the seasons of their lives. Ten years have passed since the night of the earthquake and tsunami. The memory, the experiences, the times of weeping and mourning and the times of laughing and dancing are all part of that season. Each family can look back from the vantage point of having dealt with monumental challenges and having come through victorious. They learned resilience for the new seasons to come.
I spent many seasons as a missionary living in community, as a teacher, as a hospital clown, and as a relief volunteer. I also experienced my times of weeping and my times of laughing. Now, looking back, each season holds treasured memories that I would not change for the world.
I thought of more seasons the other day:
A time to be a child and a time to grow up, a time to be young and a time to age;
A time to be a parent and a time to be a grandparent, a time to be quick and a time to go slow;
A time to care and a time to be cared for, a time of strength and a time of sickness;
A time to learn and a time to teach, a time of success and a time of failure;
A time of winning and a time of losing, a time to regard convention and a time to break convention;
A time of making mistakes and a time of getting it right, a time of forgiving and a time of being forgiven;
A time of wealth and a time of need, a time of surplus and a time of austerity.
My husband and I are in the midst of a tranquil season. Though we are officially “senior citizens,” we are enjoying good health and mental faculties. We are still active physically, yet we are fortunate enough to be able to slow down a bit and go at our own pace. I think we actually savor life more now. I spend more time reading, studying, and writing about things that deeply interest me. I have a couple of hobbies. We have a network of like-minded friends and people who we minister to spiritually. Most gratefully, we are still able to share God’s message with others.
I think most of us regard what will be the last stage of life with a bit of trepidation. The “what if” looms over our heads. Yet, by now we’ve learned that through each season He is with us. The High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy2 also dwells with us here and now; and He has made everything beautiful in its time.3