What time is it?

(photo lovingly hijacked from my talented 
twin sister's photography site)
For the past several months I have kept returning to and meditating on Ecclesiastes 3.  The chapter calls on the reality that life revolves in a dance of seasons that are ever-moving, and it speaks to the wisdom of discerning what each season holds.  Having been immortalized by the Byrds, this passage is probably familiar to most, but here's a refresher....

There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under the sun - 
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear 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 stones  and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

I began reading and rereading through this chapter while also making my way through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  In this book, Kingsolver recounts her family's journey through a year of eating only what they could grow on their personal farm or purchase in their local community.  This commitment inherently required that they eat along with the seasons.  One chapter profoundly impacted me and also changed how I read and understand this section of Ecclesiastes - a chapter on the gratitude of eating seasonally.  The modern food industry allows us access to nearly all types of foods year-round - Asparagus in January?  No problem!  This has so much become our reality that the average 20-something probably couldn't tell you what produce grows when and where; these are things that were second nature to our grandparent's generation.  I digress.  Beyond the waste of fossil fuels to bring apples from New Zealand in the dead of winter, or the fact that produce picked early to be shipped across the planet actually has a lower nutritional value, OR the value of supporting your local farmers - Kingsolver speaks of the gratitude of eating only what is available locally and seasonally.  Squeezing all things on our plate year-round regardless of the cost, versus waiting patiently for a ripe strawberry - the taste of which is only heightened by the anticipation of its arrival.

Certainly you know where I'm headed; such a principle necessarily reverberates farther than the food we eat.  In broader ways in our lives we want all things on our plate at all times, and we are disappointed and angry when it isn't possible.  We live under the cultural delusion that there are no limits in life.  I keep finding my way back to this chapter of Ecclesiastes because I see more clearly what Solomon is getting at - life moves in a cycle of seasons; different seasons call for different things.  A season that calls for uprooting will inevitably crowd-out planting.  There is a unique gratitude that comes from receiving and embracing what is in season.  There is beauty in the wisdom and self-control required to honor the season God has prescribed without begging for or seeking after the 'asparagus' we are certain we need.

And so, this passage pushes me to consider biblical wisdom as well as seasons.  The concept of wisdom is exalted throughout all of Scripture - by wisdom God made all that we know, wisdom is personified and described as with God before the creation of the world, nothing is more precious or desirable than wisdom, Christ, even, is described as the perfect wisdom of God.  In short, wisdom is a big deal.  It comes from God.  God chooses to give it to us.  We are blessed as we live in the wisdom He supplies.  The book of Proverbs is the most prominent wisdom literature in the Bible - somewhat comically, the author states, The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom (4:7).  Solomon, in the wisdom God supplied him, recognized that different seasons call for different things, and we need wisdom to discern what is appropriate in each season.  Knowing this, I'm often left asking, Ok, Lord, what time is it?  I trust that God delights in giving us the wisdom required to answer that question (James 1:5).  It is by God's wisdom alone that we are able to discern that which is appropriate for each day, week, month, year.

And yet in the midst of the 'stuff' of life it can be such a challenge to both discern and accept what is in season.   There have been times when I have wanted to uproot and flee, but realized it was a season of planting and throwing down roots.  Times when I have desperately hoped and prayed that a season would include 'sewing together,' only to realize and tremblingly embrace that it was a time of 'tearing apart.'  The truth is, we don't have the luxury of choosing what is in season.  Rather, we must cling to a deep-rooted trust in the Father - a confidence that He is the giver of all good gifts and He loves us perfectly.  Only then can we experience the gratitude of what each season carries.  In this place, we also experience a sweet sense of hope and anticipation, knowing that seasons steadily change and that we have a faithful Father that walks with us through the trials and joys of each appointed time.

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