02 January 2017

A Time (a tribute to 2016)

"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under 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 destroy, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. 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 of love, and a time of hatred. A time of war, and a time of peace." — Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
I was probably fifteen when I first read this passage from Ecclesiastes. Immediately, I was drawn to it, though how much of that was because of the truth within the verses or because it reminded me of the opening lines of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...") is anyone's guess. What better time could one find such words than during teenage years, when we long to find contradictions if only to point them out to others, when we need someone to acknowledge that life isn't always easy or rosy, when we need assurance that light can return and shrink the shadows?

As I have grown older, I have realized two things: 1) dark, difficult moments do not disappear. When we're children, we think, "If only I can get older, then I will have everything figured out." Then we get older and think, "If only I can finish school, find a job and/or get married, then I will have everything figured out." We thought that having everything figured out, having everything be easy, was a given. But the problems we face do not become easier. Instead, all those decisions we made as children and through school and in our first jobs were only practice. Each "mini" milky problem set is followed by tough meaty problem sets. And if you didn't do well at the practice round, the real problems are going to be that much more taxing to solve. But I have also learned: 2) light-filled moments of respite exist, and these moments strengthen us for our next foray. There is forgiveness, there is mercy, there is healing, and all we have to do is ask.

So here are some of the times that I have remembered that there is dark and light and a time for everything.

Times that have made me weep:

the fear of being forgotten
talking about my deceased friend
not knowing how to help someone
knowing the right thing but choosing the wrong thing anyway

Times that have made me laugh:

scribbled lyrics in the back of my notebook
comebacks from eight year olds
enthusiastic responses to sweet potatoes
almost every conversation with my husband

Times that have paralyzed me:
not knowing whether the answer is "no" or "not yet"
realizing how much others' struggles eclipse mine
thinking I could have done more
knowing I can only do so much

Times that have made me smile:
easily doled out baby laughter
the fascination in toddler eyes at new experiences
the true, shepherding "dad-ness" of priests
seeing expectant mothers worry and assuring them "no, really. you're going to be a great mom." because it's true

Times that have strengthened me:
the right song at the right moment
kneeling at Adoration and being able to think nothing but "thank you, thank you, thank you"
making intentions and sticking to them
reuniting with creative writing

Times that have given me peace:
quiet moments with my husband
letting go of failure and frustration
walking out of the confessional
God's promise of a future and a hope

May your 2017 be full of healing, laughing and dancing. But when death, mourning and loss come, may you meet them with strength and grace.