Extremes are my specialty. At times, my aversion to neutrality has led me into various sinful behaviors, but it has also driven me from those behaviors as well. Overall, I embrace the trait and continue to make honest attempts to utilize it in fruitful ways. However, when the fruit starts to rot, I instinctively race towards one end of the spectrum to avoid getting lost in the middle. Perhaps I could be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, but since one of my extremes is a distaste for prescription drugs, the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries will just have to do without me. Instead, I soak up Scripture as my guide and this is where the passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 interprets my inner dialogue and outward action quite well:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes has been a favorite since first reading it, but in these succinct seven verses lie the undeniable facts of life in how understanding that falling somewhere in between, settling in with mediocrity as a bedfellow, and basically doing nothing can be the source of untold angst. Whenever we find ourselves sailing mindlessly through seasons, from one phase to the next, the days can become one constant mess that never cleans up. These verses give us a reason and defense to make concrete choices, to comprehend what we can and cannot control, to leave our indecisive tendencies behind, and to steer clear of floating somewhere in between the spectrum that we, intentionally or ignorantly, can create.
As the first verse says, “There is a time for everything,” and that time is now. The time to be complacent, be idle, be indifferent, or be apathetic isn’t mentioned throughout the passage as to be any of these during our time between birth and death is a waste. When we get so caught up in trying to make the wisest decisions that we find ourselves paralyzed by fear, our stagnation starts to stink and our minds become mush. Inaction and indecisiveness hamper the decision making minds that God gave us, above all of His created beings, to gain knowledge and acquire wisdom that makes moving one direction or the other a mobility that revives us.
Each of the verses following offer us actions that appear to be opposing the other and each one implies following through until we get to one side or another in that time. None inform us that we simply stop moving, taking steps to reach the finish line. Where we seem to get stuck is deciding which time it is in any given instance; should we fight for life in the face of death, should we persist searching when there’s no tangible hope of finding, should we break down in tears when on the brink of despair, or burst into laughter with the joy that followers of Christ have within them, should we love the sinner, but hate their sin, should we wage war on whichever territory we witness at risk, or pursue peace at any cost? Which way do we walk? Which path do we peruse down? Which direction do we head towards? Our battle is not identifying what time it is, but which time is it? Calling out the time is far more simple than answering with an appropriate response of action.
Surely there is credence in knowing how to deal with what time deals us, but as time never stops, neither should we. We ought not get too comfortable while our perceived stability carries on, becoming or encompassing a life that is lukewarm. As time ticks by, always moving forward, let us not neglect to embrace the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years we’ve been given by our Creator to move with it. Even when it feels like we may be moving backwards by making unwise choices, these long or short slips into sin still benefit us in ways that we may not comprehend at that time. We can read the author of Ecclesiastes’ words and bittersweetly recollect the extremes at times in our lives that ripped us one of the two ways. The emotions surrounding some of these experiences are what break and/or mold us into what God has foreordained our lives to be. There is a time to die, but ours (since you’re reading and I’m writing) isn’t this moment, so perhaps it’s time for something, but never time for nothing.