Time marches on. Its revolving door never stops. Not one of us is immune to change or removed from the turning of seasons. It’s in the sun’s invariable rising and setting, the predictable falling of leaves from trees, and the persistence of birds to fly south each winter. If these were not facts enough, the events of our lives ingrain the pattern again and again.
Last Tuesday, I was taking pictures of my soon-to-be married brother and his beautiful fiance. Yesterday–one short week later–we buried my father-in-law.
To everything there is a season
When Robert got the call that his dad was being taken into emergency surgery, we were at a conference at Gateway Church in Southlake. They had started the day with a video set to The Byrds’ song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” You know the one I’m talking about …
“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven”
The melody and lyrics–mainly the “turn” part–have been stuck in my head all week: as I ached for my husband knowing his dad was being taken off of a ventilator; while we gathered in the hospital room, listening to the slowing breath of a dying man; when we prayed as a family around the hospital bed just after his passing and again at the graveside. I couldn’t escape that song any more than any of us can avoid the changing tides of life.
A time for every purpose under heaven
It’s strange how life has a way of mixing in the good with the bad. I suppose its God’s grace to sustain us–that even in the hardest times, we are capable of experiencing bright spots: the strength offered by family, the value of a genuine friend, the preciousness of the gift life, or laughter’s healing balm.
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
Robert had spent the day processing painful news and making difficult medical decisions, and three of our friends traveled 150 miles to be with him. There was nothing they could do, but their presence and the comic relief that God sent with them filled a room with laughter that before had contained only tension. There would be time for tears, but at that moment, we were so grateful to be able to listen as friends told funny stories.
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
Robert had pleaded with me not to come to the hospital. He lives his life being strong for others, and when it was his turn to lean on us, that was hard for him at first. I am so thankful now that I came anyway–that I had the opportunity to love my husband with strength and to find in return a trust and vulnerability that made me love him all the more. I also watched from a distance as he stood over his father’s casket alone–the last to leave, struggling under the weight of loss and exchanging that burden for God’s peace.
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
Brokenness is not sought-after, but it does allow us to find strength in places that we aren’t accustomed to looking. A few years ago, Robert’s brother helped our family reconnect–reuniting two brothers in their 50s-60s and allowing Robert to form a relationship with his uncle and aunt. Uncle Calvin and Aunt Diane came to the hospital from Kansas City, and even in the midst of their own grief for a brother, managed to be a source of strength to Robert and me. I also got to meet Robert’s Aunt Charlene and to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law, who we don’t get see often.
Robert’s dad had almost nothing in the way of money. In fact, he spent his last $30 to make sure that his wife had a cell phone. But we scarcely had time to fret over high funeral costs and a lack of life insurance before God had provided through a local church’s generosity. Neither Robert or I had ever lost a parent, and together these family members and perfect strangers became a safe place to turn–helping us navigate through emotions and to bury George with dignity.
From his own place of grief, Robert offered an arm of strength to George’s widow. He humbled me with his care and selflessness toward this woman he’d only met a few times. She is not his mother, but he made her that in his heart–stepping beyond the call of duty, giving much when many would have felt justified by sorrow to take.
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
My mom came from Bridgeport to be with us and brought with her comfort in the form of herself and our endearing Olivia. As we drove together one afternoon, my mom pointed out the cotton fields, almost ready for harvest. It reminded me that although Robert and I spend much of our time and energy trying to “do ministry” by planting and pouring into others, there is also a time to pluck what is planted. For us that meant being willing to receive from those around us–people like my mom, my sweet Aunt Becky and Uncle Duane, the numerous friends and family members that sent their love and support–even the people at Happy Hill Farm, who were so good to us, despite the very short time that we’ve worked there.
He has made everything beautiful in its time
This post is intensely personal, and I am aware of that. But I also know that it tells a universal story of finding beauty in what is painful. If Ecclesiastes 3 had been written prior to the fall of man–when Adam and Eve trusted in what they could do instead of what God had already done perfectly–it might’ve read something like this: “He has made everything beautiful.” Because, before sin brought death into the world, He DID make everything beautiful. Instead, that passage of scripture reflects the wonder that is God’s ability to take what is damaged and broken–the result of humanity’s tendency to look INWARD instead of UPWARD–and to make it beautiful … in it’s time. Someday everything will be made beautiful again. Period. And we will all experience, as Robert’s dad is now, God’s original intention for the world He created. Until then, His grace allows us to watch as …
- Friends come running in a time of crisis
- Brokenness makes a place for comfort
- Family is drawn together by grief
- The lowly are lifted up and dignified by love and generosity.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”–Eccleciastes 3:11 (NKJV)
Have you seen God’s ability to bring beauty, even in painful situations? If so, please share your story in the comments below or on this blog’s Facebook page. We can all benefit from the reminder that in turning seasons and circumstances, there is One who will never change. He has always been, and will ever be … GOOD.