Sustenance for The Spirit
Once upon a time I lived my work life by regularly scheduled bells, which when sounded, signified it was time for something. It could have meant it was time to move, or time to stay. Time for lunch, or time to leave lunch. There was a bell which meant you better get somewhere pretty fast and a bell for that moment when, you’re now late. I was a professional educator, most of the time at the secondary level, so every moment from the time I arrived at work until the time I left, was appointed for something. Now, the time I spent after around 4:00 p.m. at work was different. The bells had stopped ringing for the day, but this was often the time I appointed for the tasks that required quiet focus, which usually meant catching up on paperwork.
I would venture that educators, and possibly people from other regimented professions struggle with time not being appointed for something. There is so much of our normal life that depends on schedules (train schedules, feeding schedules, shift schedules, delivery schedules, etc.) that when life becomes unscheduled it can be unsettling and even stressful.
I became more aware of this concept recently as I was sweating through a home workout. I was following an Australian fitness guy on YouTube who specializes in low impact fitness. It doesn’t sound too bad, but there are some pretty intense moments. I do not use the word “sweat” lightly. The thing I found that I like about these particular workouts is that the exercises are done in twenty to thirty second intervals, with a ten to fifteen second break in between. If I’m struggling through some kind of physical torture…I mean exercise (wink, wink), like lunges or squats (I feel my muscles twinge just typing the word), it helps so much to know that I only have to endure it for a few seconds, not minutes, hours or days, just seconds. It gives me hope and sometimes even a final burst of what might be called energy (the Australian calls it endorphins) just in the last few seconds before we get to shake it out and get a drink. There is an appointed time to start and a time to stop.
It came to me, I think in the midst of lunging, that this is one of the frustrations of this pandemic we’re in. When will it stop? When is the appointed time? Is there an endgame? Those of us in the population of the world that live on schedules, we want an answer. This reminds me of the time in Paul’s ministry when he addressed a similar issue with the Thessalonians. There was some confusion about what Jesus actually meant when he said he would “come again,” and the early Christians thought that meant, like right away, and they had friends that had already died, and Jesus had not come, and as you can see this could raise all kinds of questions and discomfort, and we just want to know….and the anxiety builds as the thoughts continue, usually not in a good way. In I Thessalonians 5:1,2 Paul writes, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” The entire section actually begins in chapter four, and some of it is tough to understand for us mere humans. But, a theme arises, perhaps best stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, “So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” In writing to the Christians in churches across Asia Minor, the apostle Peter addresses a similar theme as he writes in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action: be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I have a feeling there were some of those Thessalonians, Galatians, Cappadocians, and other “ians” that didn’t get the answer they were looking for, but they got what they were going to get. Do you think Paul and Peter were saying as carefully as they could, “As long as you’re human, there are some things you’re just not going to know, but there’s something you can do about it. Be prepared. Get ready. Live now in God’s grace. Show Jesus to everyone, today.” (My paraphrase)
I read through Ecclesiastes 3:1–8. It starts with, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: “ and then the list. The things that happen at appointed times on earth, under heaven, like laughing and crying, keeping and tossing, planting and uprooting, and many others, my favorite being, “a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.” Time will tell when the pandemic ends. It’s not mentioned specifically in Ecclesiastes, or anywhere else in scripture that I can find. Under heaven there are many things we know, but God holds our appointments and we are not privy to see the exact times written in.
At some point, I have to decide to be okay with God’s timing. Our part of the world experienced a terrible drought just a couple of years ago. We saw whole lakes dry up with nary a cloud in sight. We became anxious, and the doubts started to creep in occasionally. But God knew the appointed time. He sent rain in abundance when and how it was most needed. God is faithful and that is all we need to know. Live today preparing, even if you don’t know for sure what you’re preparing for. Pray for acceptance of not knowing the appointed time. It can be a release. It is a good feeling to “let it go.” Let time happen and enjoy each moment! Have a great day.