Monday, April 29, 2013

Unseasonable discoveries…

Tabitha uploaded a stunning picture to her Facebook profile recently. Our backyard blanketed in inches of fresh show, weighed-down tree branches drooping, wintery bliss lit by the emerging illumination of morning’s almost dawn. Maybe it’s my Colorado roots (sorry Florida), but I’ve long been convinced that new snowfall best expresses the earth’s created purity. Yet this recent photo posting was more a protest than a celebration of beauty. I mean, marvelous whiteouts are great for President’s Day, but obnoxious for Tax Day, right?! Apparently, this winter forgot to read Ecclesiastes- “For everything there is a season.”

Of course, when you dig into that famous Ecclesiastes passage, you discover the writer (stylishly named Qoheleth) arguing against a different instinct- the oh-so-understandable desire to want only good things in life, to experience just the comfortable “seasons”. By contrast, Qoheleth observes that just as there’s a time to be born, so there’s naturally a time to die, a time to be happy and to be sad, so on and so forth. And what’s more, the book presses us to go beyond simply acknowledging these facts. It hopes we accept them gracefully, learn to honor them, even celebrate life’s seasons, understanding that human life fully lived must be balanced, entirely experienced.

Thus, the reason this work is among the Bible’s “Wisdom Literature”. That’s what scholars designate books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, Job and Psalms. In contrast to prophetic books like Jeremiah or theological histories like the Kings, Ecclesiastes means to impart deep knowledge, upend easy assumptions, usher us into the blessed, ancient company of the divine Lady Wisdom.

For instance, it is wise, Qoheleth surmises, that we welcome the balancing of utter happiness with the seasoning of hardship. Not that pain is good, or we should seek out struggle for its own sake. That isn’t wise! But as true as it is that our challenges- medical, financial, emotional, spiritual- are individually different, so it’s also true that no one escapes the rhythms of life, the vacillations of fortune. Put differently, we’re never in full control, desperately though many strive for it. The better part of wisdom, therefore, is nurturing the humility to live seasonally, to not rebel against whatever “season” you’re in, but accept it for what it is.

Abstractly, that’s easy to say. When someone kicks in your backdoor, however, as happened to mine last August, it’s not so simple as, “Well, there’s a time to be robbed, I guess.” You- at least I- want to rage, to fight, to rebel, and in the case of our home break-in, those feelings seemed entirely justified, thank you very much! Bad things happen to everyone, sure- whatever- just why did this happen to me? Tabitha had an easier time accepting it. We all know, of course, she’s wiser than I!

Here’s the thing about what happened next, however, that I maybe I told you, maybe I didn’t. Our neighbors were kinder to us than they’d ever been before. It’s not like previously they were mean. It’s just that we’d all gone about life ignoring each other, waving occasionally, smiling a bit. After becoming a victim of theft, though, that changed. We talked over the fence, commiserated, their kids played with our dog. And for the first time since I’d lived there, a full year after moving in, I felt truly a part of the neighborhood, welcomed, known, legit. I wish it hadn’t taken a home invasion for that to occur, but so it was. I’m not in control. It taught me that, in every moment, opportunities for grace abide.

Perhaps that’s why Qoheleth wrote, “For everything there is a season,” like a blessing, not a curse. Because the only thing that doesn’t fade, that can’t be jettisoned by the winds of fate, is God’s ever-renewing grace, present everywhere, always. When we celebrate, God laughs along. When we mourn, God whispers resurrection. When eight inches of snow cover the ground mid-April, we could cringe and close our eyes. But we’d miss winter’s last glimpse of unparalleled, stunning beauty.

May it be that whatever season you’re in, you accept it for what it is. Then look for God. Grace is there.

Grace and Peace,


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