My faith tells me that there is a time for everything in life. Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV) clearly states:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens…
When I view my past through the lens of self-pity, I tend to focus on the losses.
The family deaths.
The career challenges.
The tight money times.
The disintegrating marriage.
But just as surely as the earth turns, the times change. The first blush of love turns into the apathy and pain of divorce. The miracle of birth turns into the challenge of adult children struggling in life.
The career highs turn into the search for purpose later in life. The energy invested into making a home turns into a space where everyone is redefining home or searching for home.
In such times, the temptation is to view life as black and white. There were good times and there were bad times.
But one of the gifts of aging is to be able to blur lines, to peer into the very heart of things.
Rather than a memory frozen at one end of the spectrum or the other, can we feel and enjoy all the space and time in between?
Yes, my marriage over three decades ago was a time of joy and rejoicing. Yes, its demise was one of the saddest times of my life.
But what about everything in between? The sweetness of early romance, the terror and delight of raising children, the satisfaction gained at work AND at home.
Life is not a straight line from birth to death. It takes ups and downs and sidetracks and dead ends and delightful destinations.
Perhaps happiness and peace lie in following the trajectory from beginning to end, wiping a tear or a few over the sad times, but laughing and smiling with satisfaction at the good times – the shining times.
Early on in life, I suffered sufficient tragedy to last me a lifetime. I came into life with loss pre-loaded, if you will. I was a sick baby, had some tumultuous years growing up, and lost my parents at an early age.
I could have stayed stuck, mired in my loss. I did stay stuck for a few years. But I got unstuck.
And I learned the skill of mining the good out of every situation – or learning lessons I had to learn in order to be wiser, more centered in life – to enable me to deal with all the challenges ahead.
Later in Ecclesiastes the author says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Can we learn to say that of our lives?
There is an old story about a village. Once a year, the villagers could write their troubles out on a piece of paper. They would gather and hang their troubles on the tree. As they gazed upon the myriad of problems their neighbors faced, they were given an opportunity to exchange their troubles. The mother of a sick child could trade places with the wife of a dying husband. A mother with hungry children could switch with a widow who was being thrown out of her home.
In the end, the villagers would retrieve their own troubles and slowly, thoughtfully, return home.
I would do the same, because I have learned to see the beauty of everything in its time.
What have you learned from the challenges of your life? Are you learning to mine the difficult times for the gems of experience, or the lessons you needed to learn?