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 throw 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 throw 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, NRSV
By Diane Millis
A Time to Tend, A Time to Grieve
For those of us living in 2020, this is a season like no other. As the verses of Ecclesiastes welled up within my heart the other day, I pondered: what times have I experienced during this season?
It began as a time to tend. As the global pandemic spread, the retreats and presentations I had been scheduled to give were rescheduled. My calendar cleared just as our adult son returned home to shelter in place with us. It was as if I’ve been awarded a sabbatical. For someone who likes nothing more than reading books, watching good shows, and playing card games with family, it was a magical time. Sheltering in place was not a hardship for me. I relished the quiet within and the refreshing decrease in volume without. I had the immense privilege of focusing my attention on time with my husband and our son, relishing the open ended days and quiet nights.
And then it became a time to grieve. As we entered Eastertide, It became apparent that our lives would not be returning to normal anytime soon. Social distancing would now be a way of life, and F2F (face to face) gatherings would be the exception, not the rule. I grieved the cancellation of summer events I was looking forward to facilitating, and reluctantly accepted that whatever courses and retreats I would lead in the foreseeable future would be held via Zoom. While I appreciated this alternative way of connecting, I nonetheless noticed the profound sense of loss that I felt. I was tired of working in shorts and sweats; I missed the spark of joy I receive from F2F encounters. Moreover, I felt a palpable tiredness that didn’t abate.
A Time to Be Outraged, A Time to Be Amazed
Mired in weariness, it unexpectedly became a time to be outraged. Outraged that human beings can treat one another with such utter disregard, that we don’t view each person as someone of dignity and worth, that we don’t heed the cries of a fellow human being when they tell us they can’t breathe. And then I couldn’t breathe either. I was outraged to see our city burning and our storefronts boarded up, to witness businesses being looted and peaceful protests being disrupted.
Paradoxically, in the midst of the outrage, it became a time to be amazed. It’s a miracle, news commentator and author Van Jones tearfully proclaimed to Tara Brach in a recent interview ,
“A miracle is taking place, a miracle is taking place, a continent of new common ground has emerged from beneath the waves where there are twenty thirty forty million white Americans saying racism is real, more real than I thought, there’s something wrong with our justice system, it’s more broken than I knew, what can I do about it? As an African-American man it’s a miracle. It’s all I’ve wanted to be acknowledged . . . so we’re in some awakening, some great awakening where much more is possible than we had dared to hope for (pause). Somebody killed a black man and everybody cares (wiping the tears from his eyes) miracle never happened, it’s never happened, somebody killed a black man and everybody cares. I wish my parents were here to see this.”
A Time to Discern
And now it is a time to discern, to ponder Van Jones question: what can I do about it? To everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to tend, a time to grieve, a time to be outraged, a time to be amazed, and a time to discern.
What about you? What are the movements, the invitations, the times you are experiencing in this season of our lives?
Editor’s Note – This post is also available on the website of the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery in Minnesota. We are grateful for Diane’s perrmission to re-publish the post here.
Diane Millis, Ph.D. – Through her ministry as an educator, author, and spiritual director, Diane creates occasions for participants to cultivate conversation, develop deep listening, and share their stories with one another. Her recent book, published by SDI Press, Re-Creating a Life, offers a toolkit and practice for learning how to tell our most life-giving stories. To learn more about her ministry, visit www.dianemillis.com.