To everything turn, turn, turn,
There is a season turn, turn, turn
and a time to every purpose under heaven.
(Turn! Turn! Turn! Lyrics ‘The Byrds’)
In the early stages of our ’social isolation’, this song posed the question to me, ‘What time is this?’ Answers are suggested in the lyrics:
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
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.
Many of these are relevant, but my interest was in one that seems counter-intuitive: ‘A time to build up.’
In normal times, I can’t have longer conversations with everyone I meet in our community groups. There are many, for example, who join our bush walks. I would love to know more about them, but I just can’t get to talk to each one for very long. Besides, it’s a time to relax and reconnect with nature and ourselves, so talking about the deeper, often heavier, issues of life can work against that regenerative process. Phoning these people after a walk may well be considered intrusive. But now, in this changed season, I have both the time and the chance to get to know some of these people better. It’s a peculiar, stressful time where extra connection is often appreciated and many people have more time on their hands too. It’s an opportunity to reconnect, at a deeper level.
Whereas your life is different to mine, do you have people in your life who you have ‘let go’ - not intentionally - but due to changed circumstances, or because you have been too busy? Why not try reconnecting with them now? I sense this is a time when a call ‘wondering how you are going?’ can refresh a relationship.
Let’s not let this ‘time to reconnect’ pass unfruitfully. Take the risk and reach out to your friend or family member to experience the joy of a restored relationship. Be careful to maintain it when ‘normal life’ recommences. This may require the next ‘time’ – ‘to break down’ the elements of your life that no longer serve you well.
I remember reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at school. Anne was faced with such awful circumstances as an early teenager. Hidden inside indefinitely, her family lived in fear, as a noise at the wrong time from any of them could potentially cost them their lives. Their crime was simply being the persecuted minority of the day, Jews. Unfortunately, their persecutors, the Nazis, wielded incredible power in those days and were hell bent on the destruction of all Jews.
Anne had so much to be bitter about. She was a promising student with big dreams with her education now on hold; her father could no longer own the business he had worked so hard to establish; and the family had done nothing to deserve this punishment. Yet Anne records amazingly positive insights in her journal:
Unfortunately, she died in a concentration camp at age 15. Imagine if she had not chosen this path of forgiveness and gratefulness over this period. How sad and bitter her life would have been. Instead, she gave hope to those around her and eventually people all over the world via her books.
Holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness isn’t making the most of the life we are given. I encourage you to begin to let them go. Let me know if you want an ear or a prayer to begin to process yours.
Here’s a riddle for you:
Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
I’ll tell you the answer at the end. And there will be some hints along the way…
Many people have heard a bit about Joseph and his coat of many colours. And that he had extraordinary prophetic dreams. It was these dreams that originally got him into trouble. He was the favourite son in a very large, ancient Israelite family. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much tact growing up – and shared his dream of being superior to all his brothers – most of whom were half brothers and much older than him. So they sold him into slavery and thought they had seen the last of him.
But it wasn’t long before Joseph’s talent shone through and he was given greater responsibilities and found himself in a good job, albeit still a slave. Unfortunately, he was again victimised – this time by his master’s wife’s false accusation of rape – and thrown into prison indefinitely. Actually, a number of biblical heroes found their way into prison – and still do to this day.
Prison is another way isolation is enacted. So what can we learn from Joseph’s imprisonment that may give us hope in our isolation? Well – for a start – Joseph was eventually released and went on to achieve amazing things for both Egypt and rescued his own family (hence that boyhood dream came true), when a huge famine hit Egypt. The isolation period was a refining time for him. Whereas his abilities were once again noticed and utilised within the prison system, he wasn’t released back into society for a long time. He had huge disappointments when he was there too – an early release didn’t come through. Time and time again people betrayed Joseph – yet it seems he accepted his losses. This enabled him to remain responsive to opportunities that came his way. He was cooperative with authorities in the hope that the tide would eventually change and he would be better placed. And he stayed close to God through it all. It was eventually his prophetic dreams that got him out of prison too. And not just out – but a meteoric rise to the highest administrative office in Egypt! There he used his talent and godly insight faithfully, to rescue the Egyptians and his amazed family from starvation.
So let’s accept our current reality, obedient to authorities for the greater good and pressing into our faith in God, which will give us hope and hold us through the trials. Watch for the opportunities to use our talents helpfully and wisely to benefit others too. Maybe you can cheer someone up in your circle this weekend?
Now the answer to the riddle – have you worked it out yet?
Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
When Joseph served in Pharaoh's court.
To read the entire story of Joseph in the Bible, go to Genesis chapter 37 and keep reading to chapter 50. It’s a great story! Here’s a link for you. Enjoy!
A friend of mine recently referred to life being a bit like Noah on the ark! So I read the Noah account in the Bible today in Genesis 6-9 to see if I could pick up any clues to help us in this season of our temporary isolation.
It doesn’t tell you much about life on the ark – more the before and after. Beforehand – lots and lots of preparation – including building this gigantic boat to specific specifications. There have been reconstructions of the ark and analysis as to whether it could actually work. Apparently, it did have double the capacity needed for the animals and its ratio of length to width (6 to 1) is the most stable known and used for modern tankers and freight hauling ships! It would have been able to carry 20,000 tons of cargo. I’m not going to debate whether this is a real story or a myth which aims to teach us principles for life, but it is interesting that it was a potentially functional design.
In reading the account, Noah with just his family and all those animals and supplies, were on that huge boat together for about a year! And they survived – and were very thankful. The first thing they did was thank God for sparing them when they were again on dry land.
I wonder what life was like on the ark together? Noah’s family would have had to adjust to a whole new routine of caring for lots of animals – plenty of hard, physical labour and dirty work involved – very quickly. It would have taken heaps of cooperation and good grace and flexibility. And an ongoing thankfulness to be the ones who were still alive.
These principles apply to us today too. Yes, the changes can be hard to take for many of us. We would prefer to do other things, be in other circumstances. But this is our lot at present, so let’s do the best we can. Let’s cooperate with others and the restrictions put upon us, be gracious with each other – realising others are stressed and anxious. We need to acknowledge our own grief at the changes thrust upon us, so we can move on to being adaptable to our current circumstances. Being grateful always helps our own mental health – and makes us more pleasant to be around. What are you grateful for?
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.