There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
For the first thirty years of my life, I really didn’t pay much attention to this verse. Without really defining what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant by seasons, I assumed those “seasons,” whatever they were, would show up later in life. And I didn’t define the word “later” either.
“Later” came far more quickly than I could have ever predicted.
By the time I was thirty years old, I was a father who was entering a new season that was both exhilarating and terrifying. There’s something special about holding an infant you are responsible for and charged with guiding his or her life into a meaningful future. But it never dawned on me that this new season would come to an end and another one would begin. The infants I held grew up. They started driving. They went to college, graduated, and started careers. Today, they are thriving in their work, own their own homes, and one of them has blessed Kim and me with two grandsons.
When the first grandson was born, yet another season started. I was now a grandfather. I still don’t feel old enough or mature enough to be called Pops.
In that moment, I had somewhat of a wakeup call. It seemed as if I blinked and I went from being a young father to now being a grandfather. It was surreal to be sitting in the same hospital where our three kids were born, but now sitting on a similar couch, in a similar room, holding the son of my son. The last time I was in that hospital, it was to welcome our third child into this world. Now I was sitting in the same hospital welcoming a grandchild. And in that moment it was hard to believe that so much time had passed so quickly.
This new season, though joyful, provided a stunning reminder of how fast these seasons arrived.
These past several years have introduced me to a new season: a season of loss. My father-in-law died six years ago. My dad died two years ago. My uncle died two weeks ago. A 75-year-old, an 80-year-old, and an 82-year-old. It is my opinion that all three of these men died too early. Pancreatic cancer. Kidney cancer. Lung disease. None of them had any bad habits typically associated with their causes of death. I blinked and these great men in my life were no longer with us. Now, my 84-year-old mother is slowing down and dealing with the pain of arthritis in her back and hips.
The wise writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “there is a time to be born and a time to die.” There’s no way around this reality. It’s a bummer.
But these changing seasons of life have taught me lessons I wish I had learned much earlier in life.
I wish I had learned that life is a marathon and not a sprint. Many days, I assumed I had to solve problems that required an instant solution. The reality was that they didn’t need a solution in that moment, they just needed time.
I wish I had stayed ahead of the learning curve. I knew I was in over my head when the church (all 143 of them) asked me to be their pastor. But if I had it to do over again, I’d invest more in myself and learn some things that would have made me a better leader.
I would have insisted that Kim and I take a day or two away together more often. We actually could have done that more, but chose not to, primarily because we loved time together as a family. We did make it a priority to find a way for the two of us to have pockets of time together after the kids had gone to bed.
I wish I had spent more time with the kids when they were little. I say that as a dad who was very present, active, and consistent in their daily lives. But if I could go back, I’d hold them more, play more, stay more calm, and realize that sometimes they didn’t need to learn something in a tough moment. They were just tired.
I knew they were tired. I knew they were cranky. They didn't realize what was happening. I wish I had just scooped them up and headed to their bedrooms for story time.
I’d read more books. While I have collected a large and impressive library of all kinds of books--both in my study at the office and the study in our home--I am finally making more time to read them.
I would have been more diligent in making consistent and frequent phone calls to family. Sitting in the funeral for my uncle Courtney Duff, I found myself wishing I had called him more often. It was always an uplifting and encouraging phone call.
I could go on, but I won’t. Whether I like it or not, the seasons show up whether we are ready or not. We do not get a notice that a new season is beginning and we are not privy to the length of the season. We wake up and we are in it. And there is no advance notice that a season is ending.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I find great hope in the midst of all seasons. I don’t mean that in a trite or glib way. I did not say that following Christ necessarily makes the seasons easier. But I cannot imagine going through life without the presence of Christ and his Holy Spirit to help me navigate the seasons.
The Bible has been kind enough to tell us in advance that there are seasons in life. Jesus has been kind enough to tell us that in the world we will have trials of many kinds. The Bible has been clear about what happens when the earthly tent is taken down. How thankful I am for the Living Word that gives me hope and clarity about the future and changing seasons of life.
Jesus has provided the anchor in turbulent times, the patience in painful moments, and the grace to embrace the moments of seasons.
Which season are you in? Which season do you see on the horizon? At the end of the day, I find that it is crucial to make the best of every season. Do your best in whatever season you are now navigating. It is my sincere desire in every season left to be the very best expression of all that God has called and equipped me to be.
Some lifelong friends of mine, Bill and Gloria Gaither, wrote a song many years ago that gave me a glimpse of how to handle the seasons of life: “Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”
I’ve decided that it is best to fully embrace and enjoy “this moment.” Nothing is gained by regretting the past and worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. So, I’ve got today.
Today, I found my daughter-in-law in the carpool line and jumped in the car with her. It was a blast to surprise the grandsons when they got in the car and found me hiding in the front seat.
This week, I had some meaningful time with my daughter, my son and daughter-in-love, my grandsons, my youngest son and his future bride, and treasured moments with Kim. I can assure you that these moments were the most important, most fulfilling moments of my week.
Take it from me: there is no downside to treasuring the moment you have right now, today.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. -Psalm 90:12