To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap 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.
One of the greatest hits of my life so far happened almost exactly 15 years ago, at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. It was my graduation from Teachers College and the speakers included Pete Seeger (what now?) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (what the WHAT now?).
Not only was the line up out of this world, but for some reason (not at all related to academic performance), I had a second-row seat for the ceremony. It was a program that included a life-affirming speech by Archbishop Tutu and a sing-along with Pete Seeger. Even though it would take years for me to learn that Pete Seeger was a more highly evolved human than the rest of us, I could tell from the second row that I was in the presence of greatness.
By the end of his short performance, Pete Seeger had an entire church full of people singing along to “Turn! turn! turn!” Pete, who I think would love being on a first-name basis with all of us, fed us each line before we sang it, and our voices filled the cathedral, accompanied by Pete’s lone acoustic guitar.
“To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season,” we sang together, as New York City in May blossomed outside the church doors and our futures as graduates hovered all around us.
That was the first day of a new season of our lives, and we have been cycling through seasons ever since. Through every season, the lyrics of Pete’s song (a.k.a. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) have been a balm, shepherding me through the darker seasons and putting seemingly permanent situations in perspective.
Seasons are hopeful, promising, and always changing. The cold ones lead to warmer ones, and the stiflingly hot ones lead to refreshingly crisp ones. I tend to forget about the seasonality of life, inclined instead to project my current situation infinitely into the future.
But if you’ve ever looked out a window or watched a child grow, you know that’s not how it works. Nature and humanity are constantly whispering change into our lives. The leaves will turn red in October. My children will lose their baby teeth. I may eventually learn how to properly roast a chicken. But for now, the pollen is swirling, there’s no hint of a wiggle in my daughter’s teeth, and I stick with the grill when it comes to chicken.
I am a person who wants to do all the things, right now. Remembering that “there is a time for every purpose under heaven” helps me take a deep breath, accept my current season, and have faith that the next season will offer new possibilities.
My current season is the one where I go through life doing three things at once, getting interrupted most of the time, and crashing on the couch at 9:15pm. This season is also filled to the brim with hugs, giggles and happy stuffed animals.
This is not the season where I will work on sewing projects for hours while listening to podcasts for intellectual and cultural edification. This is also not the season where I will cook meals with more than five ingredients, practice guitar every day, or leisurely work my way through all the fiction I want to read. But in this season, I get to take breaks from the constant activity to revel in kindergarten plays and dance recitals and beach days.
This is the season where the needs of the people I love will simultaneously overwhelm, exhaust, and fulfill me, making every day whiz by until I stop, take a look around, and wonder where the time went, why my house is so quiet, and how I got so much older.
One of my favorite memories of living in New Jersey was walking my son to kindergarten every day. Some days we got to school dripping with sweat. Other days we maneuvered through a tiny passageway on the sidewalk, surrounded by two feet of snow. The swoosh-crunch of the leaves in September was one of my favorite sounds. Walking through the seasons as my son got nine months older was a gift – a calming memory to give me perspective when I feel stuck, or when I feel blurry from too much activity.
But it’s all a gift, isn’t it? To everything there is a season. So we don’t have to do all the things today. And if today is a dumpster fire, then life, and Pete Seeger, and Ecclesiastes, promise us that change is on the horizon. If today is beautiful, life advises us to enjoy it and stockpile that joy to keep us warm on a darker day.
I’m looking forward to the season where I do get to learn guitar, so I can teach myself that song we sang with Pete 15 years ago. For now, I’m occupied by trying to keep track of bathing suits, goggles and flip flops. And that's really good for now.