Did you hear about the teacher who asked little Jimmy to name the four seasons? Having been raised in a family of cooks, Jimmy quickly responded, “Salt, pepper, oregano and garlic.” Probably not exactly what she had in mind.
But here we are at the start of another season. Recently I noticed a sign in the fitness area of our local YMCA that read, “Fall Prevention Meeting.” I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “What’s the use? Autumn is going to come, just as it does every year, whether we like it or not.” No way to prevent it, right?
Okay, all seriousness aside, the arrival of Fall – along with the other seasons of the year – serves as a reminder that time marches on, that the heat of summer will eventually end and that the chill (or deep-freeze) of winter can’t be too far behind.
This reminds me of a passage in the Bible which declares, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Back in the mid-1960s the Byrds, an American rock band, recorded a tune called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” that had been written by Pete Seeger in 1959. The song began,
“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep….”
Researching the origins of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” I discovered Seeger had based the lyrics on pieces of text he’d written in his pocket notebook. He described the words he had copied from the Bible as “verses by a bearded fellow with sandals, a tough-minded fellow called Ecclesiastes.” Well, he was partly right. The words came from the book of Ecclesiastes, attributed to Israel’s King Solomon, who almost certainly had a beard.
Seeger used the wording of Ecclesiasts 3:1-8 almost verbatim but turned his composition as a protest song of sorts, adding the words, “A time for peace; I swear it’s not too late.” When the Byrds’ version came out during the height of the Vietnam War, it became a smash hit.
For those of us who have lived long enough, we know there indeed are seasons to life – many of them. There are the chronological seasons of infancy, toddlerhood, adolescence, the teen years, early adulthood, mature adulthood (at least for some people), and finally, “Wow! You look good for your age!” We go through seasons of schooling, starting and forging careers, and retirement.
The remainder of the passage in Ecclesiastes sums the scope of life very concisely: “a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, 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.”
But there’s another phrase that quickly follows this passage that’s sometimes overlooked. It says, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Sometimes as we’re slogging through a particularly difficult season of life, it seems anything but beautiful. But through the wonders of hindsight, we can discover that despite the pain or stress or anxiety that “season” might have caused, God truly was using it to create something beautiful in our lives.
In my own life, I’ve lost track of all the many seasons I’ve gone through. Childhood is but a faint memory; my high school and college years I’d describe as youthful foolishness; marriage and parenting have been seasons of much learning, with some lessons still being learned. And since I left full-time employment and became a grandfather, that’s been a completely different season of its own.
I’d like to think that, like the apostle Paul, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). But I still have my moments, I must admit.
The point it, no matter what season of life you find yourself in – in the midst of planting or reaping, laughing or weeping, keeping or throwing away – God does have a purpose for it, even though you might not appreciate what that is until you can view it in retrospect. So if you’re currently mourning, there will yet be a time for dancing and vice versa. To everything – turn, turn, turn – there is a season.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.