When I was a teenager, all bad things in the moment felt like the end of the world. My Grandma was a fantastic listener so I often complained to her about the troubles I was facing. She would always listen to me as if I was the center of her world in that moment. When I was done ranting she would often look at me with peace in her eyes and say, “And this too shall pass my dear.” I didn’t understand how my Grandma could be so sure, or even say this phrase with a gentle smile on her face. The older I get, the more seasons of life come and go, and I realize my Grandma was right. The third chapter of Ecclesiastes exudes similar wisdom my Grandma tried to share with me about how there’s a season for everything.
“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens:
2 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
3 a time for killing and a time for healing
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
4 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
This summer I was about to enter a season of my life that I had been anxiously waiting for a long time. My youngest child was about to go to kindergarten, which meant both kids would be at the same school and on the same schedule. I had been carefully planning and plotting what I was going to do with extra kid free time. Even though I still had to balance my two part time jobs, I was planning to do it all!
“What will you do that extra time now your kids are in school?” Everyone asked.
I had so many plans of what my life would like. I was going to work out every morning and look like a super hero. I was going to be a rock star Youth Pastor and do more to reach out to support parents. I was going to be a spiritual superstar by meditating and praying every morning. I was going to do meal prep and cook homemade meals instead of warming up freezer food. I was going to stay on top of keeping my house clean and reorganize everything. I was going to write more for various organizations that had been asking me to write. I was going to catch up with old friends and make plans to visit. I was going to be friends with all the parents in my kid’s classrooms and set up regular coffee dates. I was going to volunteer at my kid’s school to be a presence in the community. Oh, and of course I was going to learn how to play the ukulele if I had time left over. I was going to do it all!
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up
One day in August, all my plans came to a screaming halt when I noticed blood in the toilet followed by sharp stabbing pains in my abdomen. I fell to my knees and began sobbing because I knew exactly what was happening. I was having an ulcerative colitis flare up after being in remission for three years. I thought God healed me. I thought the medicine was working. I started to think I was invincible. My spirit was crushed because I knew once I started to flare; the road to recovery was brutal and long.
Over the next few months, I slowly watched parts of my life fade away as I was able to do less. My kids were in school, and all I could do was try to rest and get minimal tasks done just to get by each day. I tried hard to stay positive, but it didn’t take long before I sank into a dark place. I could hardly eat anything and my body was withering away. I was weak and tired of being in pain. Eventually, I was admitted to the hospital. My mind flooded with fear and anxiety about all the unknowns of the future while I sat in the hospital bed. How was I going to do my job? How could I possibly make any plans? How can I keep youth ministry thriving and fun when I am sick and weak? How are my kids and husband coping? What if I need surgery because I don’t respond to the steroids? I felt guilty I wasn’t working or writing when I had so much time to just lay around in the hospital bed. Mentally, I felt like all I could handle was watching Netflix to keep my mind from panicking.
“a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,”
Life was more of a challenge when I got home. People expected me to be healed. The hospital didn’t fix me. It did help some of my symptoms, but it also made other things worse due to the side effects from all the medicine they pumped through my veins. I was so jacked up on steroids, which increase adrenaline that even simple tasks like getting food at the grocery store caused panic. Any time I had to leave the house I felt completely overwhelmed. I questioned how I would be able to do basic tasks or care for my family. I wondered how I would be able to pour into others as Youth Pastor when I felt so weak and out of control.
“a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
“Acceptance.” My counselor told me. “You keep fighting and resisting. Your body is spending so much energy fighting. Healing happens when you can let go and learn to accept. Accept this flare up is just a rough season for now. Accept the fact that you are sick and need help. Accept help from other people because people actually love to help.” Jodi wisely reminded me.
Jodi was right. The more I learned to accept and embrace the season of suffering for what it was, the more I was able to cope. Once I learned to unclench my fists, my hands could remain open to receive. I received an outpouring of love and care from a network of people in my life. People came to visit, sent cards, watched my kids, gave meals, called or texted words of encouragement. People really do love to help. They just need to be aware of the need and sometimes given specific instructions on how to help.
I am still in a season of sickness, but I am learning to treat myself the way I would treat others who are suffering. This means giving myself an abundance of grace, tenderness, patience and mercy. I am giving myself permission to rest and let go, taking one day at a time. I am learning not to wallow in despair because this too shall pass. After all, there is a season for everything.
There’s a time to make plans
and a time to do nothing.
There’s a time to go out and push through the pain
and there’s a time to stay in and relax.
There’s a time to make homemade meals
and a time to warm up frozen pizza.
There’s a time to work out
and there’s a time to rest on the couch for hours.
There’s a time to be a perfectionist
and a time to quit and say “Good enough for now.”
There’s a time to deep clean the house
And a time to shove piles of junk in the corner.
There’s a time to wear real pants and fancy shoes
And a time to wear sweatpants and slippers.
There’s a time to study Scripture
and a time to binge on Netflix.
There’s a time to read books that challenge your mind
and a time to watch funny cat videos on YouTube.
There’s a time to connect meaningfully with others
and a time to hide in solitude.
There’s a time to thrive and innovate at work
and a time to simply keep things afloat.
There’s a time to fight and get fired up
and there’s a time to let go and accept the situation.
There’s a time to lead and serve others
and there’s a time to let others carry you.