The last 11 years have provided me with a lot of time to think. I’d like to blame it on this writing process because I’ve wanted to analyze every detail of my life so I can share everything just right. I’m trying to find redemptive value in moments that have long been forgotten by most people. This story, my blog and trying to find a testimony is only partially to blame for my living in the past though. I mostly sit around and think about all of this stuff because I’m very stuck.
I surely can’t be the only one that feels stuck even when others would swear I was making progress. Forward motion can look and feel different to every person. I realized I was stuck when I did a Bible study that asked me to analyze my fears. I was holding myself back from lots of new and exciting and possibly necessary things in life because I was (and still am) afraid. Afraid of what others will think. Afraid of failure. More afraid of success. Afraid of pain. Afraid of being wrong. Afraid of disappointing and of being disappointed. My little brain runs 90-to-nothing for no reason other than fear.
If I can redeem all the bad things that happen to me, then there is value. If I get to give Jesus glory or bless others in my good days, then there is value in that too. If I grow or become or increase in any way at all, then there is value. But do I really believe that I have value outside of all that effort? What am I worth if I don’t work?
Scripturally, I know the truth. I know all the verses that tell me how much Jesus loves me and how priceless He thinks I am. I also know that my family loves me even when they don’t approve or understand my choices. I have a few very close friends that help me see how special I am, but my behaviors and my thoughts betray my opinion of myself. I know what’s true, but I don’t act like I believe it. Frankly, being stuck here, spending most of my days determining whether or not I deserve my life, is disheartening. It’s a waste of time and energy, 2 things I desperately need more of if I am ever going to get back on track.
A couple of weeks ago, I started reading in Ecclesiastes. These verses are often quoted or sung thanks to the hippies and other followers of folk music. But this time, I removed the familiar melody from the lyrics and I saw an applicable, Biblical truth in a new way.
1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching, a time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This set of Scriptures shows that our world works within time. It’s a dimension and an element beyond human control. We can set times, manage our time and give of our time but we cannot change how many hours or years we’re granted. It can be a helpless estate. I have little to no say regarding something that dramatically impacts every breath I take. At one point, I would feel lost and out of control at those implications, but now I’m just letting myself feel free.
My world revolves in seasons. Not just from autumn to spring, but from every other extreme too. Birth and death. Laughter and tears. Love and hate. There is an endless stream of antonyms that could be included in this list; even the passage above seems thorough but incomplete. No matter what words we’d like to compare and contrast here, the conclusion would be the same: there is a time for both.
In my life, I will experience great joy and deep sorrow. Even within the same day, I can struggle with gains and losses. And you know what, I may not deserve either one. This life is not just about earned rewards or unavoidable consequences. As a follower of Jesus, I am involved in things every day that have nothing to do with my value or worth, things totally beyond my control or reaction. Just because I have a bad day does not mean I am to blame for every evil in life and I’m not being disciplined by some cosmic cop. As hard as it is to accept, sometimes bad things happen. And bad things can happen to both good and bad people. This is life; it’s a fallen nature trying to get by on a daily basis. At other times, I will experience the favor of the Lord in profound ways. I didn’t do anything particularly spectacular on that good day, but some wonderful blessing found me. By simply labeling things “bad” or “good,” or by trying to see only the bad or good in any individual, I’m only seeing part of the picture.
Balance and acceptance. I found the most peace when I realized that I was supposed to experience all that life has to offer, the things I can change and the things I can’t. Living within the extremes is where 99% of the battle is. When the days get long and hard, please allow yourself to grieve what might have been. It helps you persevere. This was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Like I spoke of earlier, I struggle with my worth and value. I want to know why my life doesn’t involve a husband, kids, stable job and 401(k). Now when I’m helping smiling children and visiting the poor and needy, I see exactly why my life can’t include some of those other things right now. I have a calling to pursue and dreams to fulfill; and just because I don’t have all of the quintessential blessings one might expect, it doesn’t mean that I’m not blessed.
This is my season and I’m meant to live it well. With my uncertainties and my fears and my failures… with my happiness and my hopes and my good intentions. This is now. I’m not told what tomorrow will hold or what Jesus may want to do in the next 5 years. Frankly, we’re not promised anything other than the right now. I really do hope and pray that the next season of my life involves many other things that will make me happy, but if the next season is a little cold and lonely like winter… or if it’s a little hot and arid like summer… or if it’s beautiful and cozy like fall… or if it’s bright and new like spring… my faith cannot waiver and my heart will not change. I’m in this with Jesus for the long haul and I haven’t seen all that He has in store.