“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:1-2a,8b NRSV).
I think my father and I get along pretty well. Throughout my life, he has often been there to comfort me in times of trial and sorrow, and I am glad he was. But one of the things I appreciate most about my father is the way in which he has stood up to and challenged me over the years. Hasn’t coddled me. He hasn’t tried softening blows. When appropriate, he was always there to call me out when my thinking or acting needed a little course correction.
That’s how I view this famous poem in Ecclesiastes. It challenges me and my way of thinking. Qoholet, or the Teacher, who wrote Ecclesiastes, spends 7 verses in his third chapter going over 28 different seasons for which God picks a time. I say God picks the time because that’s what Qoholet thinks they are, or he has observed that this is just how life is. The first to seasons are birth and death. We cannot choose when we are born; it just happens to us. One day we’re in the womb and the next we are crying and wailing seeing bright lights.
There may be a little bit more confusion on the whole death issue, but at the end of the day, we cannot decide when we get the news that lump the doctor found is cancer, or when the driver doesn’t look from his phone, or when clouds begin to spin and you hear a sound like a train rolling over.
The rest of the seasons are set up and against these two which we have no control over. Qoholet says we don’t choose when to weep or laugh, when to mourn or dance, and when to love and hate. These just happen to us like being born or dying. They are seasons which we cannot control any more than we can control when Autumn, Winter, Spring, or Summer happen.
This is challenging to me. I like being able to decide when I am happy and when I am not. I like being able to decide when to dance (or really, when to not dance). Maybe, if I get deep down to it, I just like to be in control and Qoholet tells me I am not. It’s a challenging word to me. But I must remember, God is God, and I am not. And I am thankful for that.
Thanks be to God.