Driving back with a van full of students from our conference in Oklahoma last week we spent some time talking about God and faith. These are good times. The best times to be a college professor. Hanging out with students and talking about life.
At one point I shared how I read this famous passage from Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 3.1-8 (KJV)No doubt there are some hermeneutical issues to be resolved in this passage. How do you read "a time to kill" and "a time to hate" in light of the Sermon on the Mount? (My take is that Christians shift all this language to the spiritual realm where our "battle is not against flesh and blood.")
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.
Those issues aside, here's how I read this text. I think it's a call to being present, engaged and mindful. In this my reading finds some convergences with Buddhism.
There is a time for everything. And whatever you are doing right now that is the time for that. So be present in that moment. Don't be in a different time. Don't be ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Don't live in guilt, regret or shame. Don't live with worry, fear and apprehension. Live into the moment. The time is right now.
There is a time to tuck your kids in at night. When it's that time be present. Do that well and fully.
There is a time (in my life) to teach a class. When it's that time I should do that work to the best of my ability.
There is a time to drink a cup of coffee with a friend or loved one. When it's that time I should savor the moment and not be picking up my iPhone to check my email.
There is a time for everything.
And when it's that time be there and nowhere else.