Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (the message)
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to be cheery,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
This morning, after having rushed and fussed a bit with my 2nd grader, we hopped into my Jeep so we could hopefully get to school on time. As soon as we began backing out of the driveway we heard the most terrible noise and felt the car shaking. I didn’t get out of our cul-de-sac before realizing we must have a flat tire. Yep…the rear tire on the passenger’s side was F L A T. I mean the kind you won’t even think about driving on. It was one of those moments when either one of two things happens: you either have a conniption fit right there or you just have to laugh because of course you have a flat tire when you are running late!
We pulled my Jeep back into the driveway and I heard myself tell the girls we would just walk Rivers to school. We live close enough to my daughter’s school to walk, yes, but at 38 weeks pregnant (with a baby they estimate to already be over 10 lbs) walking all the way to the school and back sounded somewhat ridiculous to my own ears and yet I had firmly decided we would do it. I sent my husband a text message on my dying cell phone and left it charging on the kitchen counter. Then my girls and I set out on our leisurely walk to school. Neighbors we hardly know offered to drive us when they saw us walking but I said no thank you. Something in my heart needed this.
Can I share with you this was the best flat tire ever for me. I needed a flat tire today and God knew that. So often we think of things as “good” or “bad” and we miss out on what God may be trying to do for us even in what initially appears bad. First of all, as my girls and I walked and talked the yuck of rushing and pressure fell away. We even began to think of things we could be thankful for in spite of having to walk to school. First, the weather was really nice this morning…it could have been too hot or cold or still raining. Second, we live close enough that walking to school is an option. Third, we were able to spend some extra nice time together. The three of us decided it was really an adventure (and who knows maybe my water would break and I would go into labor!).
Why did I need a flat tire today? Because like my leaking tire, I needed to decompress. I needed to let the airs of anxiety and worry and control seep out of my heart and mind. I needed to let my own disillusionment go flat. The illusions of what I can control and what I can’t. The confusion about who I am or have become and what God means for me in all of it. The sweet missing deep in my heart for Jesus. For His presence…for the filling and overflowing of His Spirit in my life. Not for what He is or has or will call me to do. Not for what I feel obligated or pressured to project. Not for pretending or talking the right talk or walking with ease in church world. About two years ago I discovered the “right time to hold on and another to let go.” I discovered letting go of all I was and all I wasn’t. I let go of what I had hoped for and the ways I yearned for my needs to be met. I let go of measuring up. I let go of my own striving and crashed head long into grace. A grace that turned me around…upside down…left me empty and filled…broke the hard, unbending places of my life while mending the shattered pieces of me. Like the woman at the well, I met Jesus without really understanding at first just who I was dealing with. I knew the Jesus of my childhood and the Jesus I could encourage you to trust…but not the Jesus I really, really trusted. Not the Jesus whose daily nearness would absolutely transform me. But like that woman, His love and nearness, found in my most open and honest moments, caused me to do what I needed to do for deeper and longer drinks of His living water.
Somehow, in ways I don’t yet fully understand, over the past few months I began to struggle with my thirst. The one thing I prayed against and asked God to not let happen in my life. And yet, in the midst of “doing” and “being” what I believed He was calling me to do I began to slip. In the midst of pregnancy and ministry and my husband’s job changes and the uncertainties of how best to deliver this baby, I found myself with a dry and tired heart. Missing the water.
What does all of this have to do with the verses above in Ecclesiastes? What does it have to do with a flat tire? Everything. See, God knows the plans He has for us. He knows the seasons of our lives…when they start and when they change. He knows the purpose He has for us in each season…especially the ones where we feel somewhat lost and confused about where we are going. We learn, one way or another, we cannot live in attempts to control the future, other people or God’s best for us and live in peace. We certainly may live in the illusion that we can. I find that when I have taken on the pressures and anxieties of making things turn out right or resenting hurts or slights against me, I quickly become focused on me. And I truly, truly, truly believe the most consistently unhappy, negative, complaining people are the ones absorbed with their own happiness and outcomes.
I can’t understand some of what has transpired in my personal life lately. It’s hard to make it all “fit” with what I thought was or would be. I fight off a bit of disappointment when the realities of being human clash with the lofty places I easily hold people to. I lay awake at night wondering when and how this baby will come and wanting her to be safely delivered without any trauma to either of us. I feel the pressure to try to make it all work within the parameters of my husband’s new job and insurance. I encounter the bittersweet taste that comes with letting go of my place in a ministry I poured my heart into yet knowing the letting go will produce fruit in other areas of my life.
I have grappled. I have complained. I have worried. I have let the voices of “what if” and “why” become loud and steal the sweet comfort of trusting completely in Jesus. I have repented and yet struggle with finding my hands and heart wide open again…letting go…free and filled up.
God knows just what I need. And today I needed a flat tire to unequivocally hear Him declare you are not in control but I love you so I am going to give you some time to teach your children to be thankful in all circumstances while reminding yourself. I am going to send Ann by in her van about the time you get to school so you don’t have to walk back. I will have your husband there for you at lightening speed to fix everything. I AM the fixer. I AM your provision. I am going to have a wise and sincere friend send you a most encouraging email reminding you that I AM great in your life for you to read when you get home…the honesty in a true friend who will say don’t neglect the gifts God has placed in you. Don’t let the sharp edge of who God is in you grow dull…
Old friends. New jobs. Good bye to what was and hello to new beginnings. One season ends…another begins…and I rest in the amazing embrace of a sweeping romance with my most faithful God.