Thursday, December 9, 2010

turn, turn, turn

it's time to be sad again, he said, kneeling by the bed in the dark. we had been arguing, i think--and who knows about what, as is almost always the case with those things--and i suppose i had gone to bed, seeing no other way to put an end to it. it's time to be sad again, here in the dark.

it seems to me that for the most part, we resist cycles. we artificially heat and light the annual dark, cold seasons; we medicate monthly bad moods; we travel to warm places when it's cold and cool places when it's hot; we starve and exercise and surgically rearrange bodies that mature into sagging or stretching or drooping. we strive for equilibrium in our emotions, our environments, our habits. we don't want change, cyclical or otherwise.

but resist as we may, we live in a world dominated by cycles. if you go to school with luke, you'll probably learn about the water cycle. there's the cycle of time: resist as we may, whether we get out of bed or not, morning will follow night, every night, for as long as the Lord sees fit to perpetuate that cycle. the seasons are cyclical, of course, as are the holidays that appear in them. for many people, emotions are cyclical, affected by light or weather or hormones or other indeterminate factors. this is part of why i appreciate the liturgical church year, as i think i've mentioned before. ordinary time is always followed by something extra-ordinary, green followed by purple, red leading to white. (if that's all foreign to you, here's a decent, brief explanation of what i'm talking about.) try as we may to celebrate christmas in july, like luke with his interminable whistling this summer, that's not the time for it, and christmas will not come then.

i'd prefer to resist the cycle of sadness, too. i'd prefer to call out in the dark, no! it's not the time to be sad. i won't be told when to be sad! i won't let the calendar dictate what this sunday will look like for me--or any other day, for that matter. last year, as december 12 approached, sam and i were convinced that it would be a day like any other. it was clear when 9:15am arrived that day that we were completely wrong.

i'd prefer it if this were not "the time to be sad." i'd prefer to preserve advent and christmas as times of joyful waiting and leave the sad for some more convenient time--or never. but the fact is that i have no choice but to submit to the darkness when it arrives. unlike in my modern, electrified house--in which i can flip a few switches and pretend that this cold, dark night is in fact a warm, sunny day--i cannot turn a dark emotional season into a bright one. there are dark seasons that cannot so easily be turned on or off. and maybe there are times to be sad.
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 to plant, and a time to pluck up what 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 seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, 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 for war, and a time for peace. (ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
(go ahead, sing it. you know you want to. i am. turn, turn, turn.)

what ecclesiastes 3 goes on to say is that God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (v11). the fact that everything has its season--birth and death, planting and reaping, weeping and laughing, casting away and gathering in, seeking and losing--is no accident. the cycle of seasons is made beautiful in its time. i have to believe that we're built for submitting to those cycles (inasmuch as they're healthy, of course, in which i do not at all mean to ignore the fact that in our brokenness, those cycles can be broken, too). put simply, if it is time to be sad, i'd do well to listen to that, to submit to it, to learn in it, to grow through it.

and in kneeling in the dark, recognizing that it is time to be sad again, i will all the more appreciate the light, the morning that follows night every time in its turn.

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