There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born, and a time to die,
A time to plant, and a time to uproot,
A time to kill, and a time to heal,
A time to tear down 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 them,
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search, and a time to give up,
A time to keep, and a time to throw away,
A time to tear, and a time to mend,
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.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
A friend and I were texting Friday afternoon about my plans for the weekend, which included a whirlwind trip to my hometown to see some of my very favorite people — two dear friends and my family (my aunt and cousin will be visiting, too — yay!). Because of some other things I had planned this weekend, I had to make the four-hour round trip in one evening. My friend joked that she hoped what I had planned was worth such a quick jaunt over and back, and I could only smile and reply that time would tell.
But here’s the thing.
I have a complicated relationship with time.
I don’t like it.
More accurately, I don’t like waiting. Patience is a virtue I was born without and haven’t really gained much of in my 30-something years on this planet. Just ask my parents. At two years old I demanded that my father stop at Kmart on the way from bringing my newborn brother home from the hospital to “get that baby some teeth!” Clearly, his gummy grin was some sort of factory defect and I had no time to wait around for a replacement.
You don’t even want to know how I am at the airport. Slow traffic? DMV? Microwave popcorn? Fuhgettaboutit.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life in anticipation of that next step. As a teenager, it was the milestones that come with reaching certain ages – driver’s license at 16, voting rights at 18, alcohol at 21. High school, then college, then a job. Marriage, house, kids. A neat little flow chart to follow and check-mark.
My chart ran off the page after marriage and house, and I’ve had to do some back pedaling. That’s a pretty difficult thing to do for someone who for many years clung (like, hung-on-by-my-fingernails) to the belief that there are just certain things you do, and this is the amount of time in which you have to do them. Divorce was not on my flow chart, and it totally screwed up the next step and all the ones after that.
Divorce is agonizing and fraught with all kinds of messy emotions. There were times I’d go from joy to flat-out rage within a matter of hours, just depending on what happened or how certain conversations went. It was nuts, man. I began to compare everyone I knew, and even everyone I didn’t, to my own situation. I’d pass by a family at the grocery store and think, “She gets to have a marriage and family. Why is mine falling apart?” If I passed by a woman who seemed, ah … under qualified… to be a mother? “Lord, why does she get to have a baby? This is not fair!”
I know. I was a real peach.
See, it wasn’t how I wanted my life to turn out. I had a list, darn it, and THIS WAS NOT ON THE LIST, and everything was getting completely off schedule. I was running out of time. And so I became consumed with figuring out how to get back on track, even if it meant defying all odds and somehow saving an unhappy, unhealthy marriage. I was totally prepared to do that if it meant I could keep that list intact.
Thank the Lord in heaven above that he knows better than I. The most painful experience of my life turned out to also be the source of the greatest gift of grace I’ve ever received.
I remember, in the middle of all this, receiving a message from my brother on Facebook. It simply said, “Time heals everything.” I appreciated the sentiment (especially since it came from my usually stoic sibling), but at the time I wondered if it was true. Don’t tell him I said this, but it turns out he was right. Well, mostly. Time does heal, but healing is not a passive activity; you don’t just wake up “fixed” one day after a certain amount of time has passed. It takes work, and a lot of it — and sometimes time is excruciating. And that’s why we try to rush things.
I’m guilty of that, of trying to make things happen too quickly. Always have been, which if I’m honest is probably one of the reasons I ended up in this situation to begin with. After the end of my marriage, I prayed every single day for God to change my life, and I expected him to do it immediately. I made a few mistakes during that time, because even though I wanted God to intervene, I was just too impatient to wait around for him to do it.
We often expect our prayers to be answered in quick, grand fashion. Music, confetti, cheering crowds, a great booming miracle. But often what we need to do is quiet ourselves and listen to that small voice whispering … “wait.”
I don’t think it ends there. I think we’re given the periods of wait so we can work and pray. Personally, my work involved changing my attitude and learning to focus on my blessings rather than the things that were missing. I had to rebuild my life, because nearly everything about it had changed. I had to reconnect spiritually. And I had to learn to accept the seasons.
I’m still impatient, and I’ll admit to still having a list. But now I can say that I don’t know if I’ll check everything off of it, or even what it will look like in a year, or five or even 10. I’m getting used to hearing that small voice, and it’s because of it that I no longer fear the days when the daylight hours are short, or when the trees are stark and naked against the grey sky. I’ve been promised that summer will return.
And it always does.