Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Record cover for Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds, 1965
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break 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 cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This beautiful passage has oddly been received in quite a negative spirit by theologians through the ages, for example,
"His ceaseless reiteration of the words, 'A time, a time, a time...' are intended to indicate his sense of the monotony of all things...and begins to be oppressive."1
"...it casts a dark shadow because it reminds us of the inevitability of trouble and evil, and of the relentless monotony of life."2
When researching this passage I admit to being surprised by these, and other rather bleak, foreboding readings of these elegant words, this sharp perception. Rather than bringing us down with inevitability, I believe Qohelet's intention to be one of lifting us up, reminding us to stay awake and pay attention, to listen to the rhythms of nature and our own biological, emotional and mental rhythms, essentially to work with God's plan instead of against it. If there is any inevitability here it is that a life lived by self-will alone is doomed. The failure to listen to God and accept His world will hurt us and those around us. This is the same message of all the prophets: self-will causes destruction, pain and tragedy.
Learning these words will allow us at any given moment to check in with ourselves, and with our creator, to ask, "is my laughter true, or false?", "is this a moment to be angry, or to be forgiving?", "is a hug appropriate, or might it be intrusive and unwelcome?", "do I need to listen or to lecture at this moment?", "am I eating for hunger or boredom?", "what do my loved ones need from me right now?" and so on. In short, to stay connected, to stay alert, to embrace the rhythms and flow of life.
1, 2 These quotes, only partially attributed, are taken from Ecclesiastes 3 — The Reign of Time, A Glimmer of Hope by David Guzik, Enduring Word, 2018