“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
In the first 13 years of my life my family lived in 6 states – one of them twice! I was born in Alabama, but within a few months we moved to Massachusetts (where generations of my family are), then to Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, back to Massachusetts, and then finally to Florida. No, we aren’t gypsies. My dad’s job as a business management engineer involved contracts which lasted just 2-3 years at a time, and at the end of those contracts we picked up and moved to wherever the next one was. Personally, I loved it. I loved traveling to new places, making new friends, living in a new house every few years. I guess you could say, even early on in my life I started to accumulate a pocket full of change.
“… a time to plant and a time to uproot…” – Ecclesiastes 3:2b
So, for the last few years I’ve worked as a customer service rep at a large health insurance company’s call center. When I was hired I was one of thirty-six people in my training class, and now two and a half years later, there are maybe ten of us still working here – and of that ten, most of the group ended up transitioning to work at home, and just a few of us stayed “in house”. Then, a little over a year ago another group was trained and brought in. They were a little green at first (OK, a LOT green), but within just a few months they made our team into the number one team in the building. They are an amazing – and eclectic – group… moms, dads, single parents, and singles from every walk of life. Some loud, some quiet, but all full of life.
“…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” – Ecclesiastes 3:4
We’ve really jelled into a great group. Think “the breakfast club”, but with an older crowd, more style, and a lot more understanding of life. The team has laughed together, celebrated together, mourned together. We’ve been together for some pretty good – and some pretty sad – times in the lives of our teammates. Until this week that is. This week the team splits once again, but this time it’s in three directions: either go home, to a new office clear across town, or stay put. Once again, I put my hand in my pocket and I can feel the change.
“…a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…” – Ecclesiastes 3:5a
Some people don’t handle new experiences well… they don’t like any kind of adjustment to their routine or the way they are used to things being done. Others just adjust simply into new patterns and surroundings. And then there are those who maybe don’t like the change, but see it coming and do what they can to make the best of it. My mom is one of those people. If she ever struggled with our moving around so often, I don’t think she ever let it show – at least I don’t remember seeing it. And ours wasn’t the “nuclear family” – you know, mom & dad, 2.5 kids, a cat and a dog. No, I am the youngest of seven. Now, not all of us were at home at the same time, but at any given time there were probably five of us at home – and then you add all of our pets, friends, and random strangers (yeah, even some of those)… well, life could get pretty crazy. Can you imagine packing everything up and moving it to another state every couple of years? Well, that’s what she did – but we’d leave the strangers there, of course.
“…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…” – Ecclesiastes 3:6
So what do I remember from those moves? How my mom would start to research the areas we were about to move into, and by the time we got there, she had found out about all the interesting or fun things to do in those places: local parks, interesting places to eat, fun historic locations. By the time we’d arrive we would be excited about our new home and ready to explore, go to school, make new friends… and remember this was all done before there was the internet. I guess you could say she didn’t look at those moves as a chore or some kind of set-back, rather she embraced them as something of an adventure for us. I’m sure she did this for her sanity as much as ours, but whatever the reason it always seemed to make the change something I could hold in my hand, rather than it being scattered across the floor.
“…a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak…” – Ecclesiastes 3:7
I think maybe even unknowingly, my mom helped to prepare me for all of the craziness life would throw at me. Change is never easy, but it can be handled well if you don’t let it overwhelm you. When I was 18, I had the opportunity to go to Paraguay, South America for a year to help start a church in a little town named Ita. It was one of the best experiences of my life, but even knowing it would be didn’t stop me from wondering – and yes, maybe even worrying – if time apart from the people I came to care about would bring change that would last forever. As I thought about it all one night before leaving, I sat down and wrote out words that would become a song my youth pastor sang in my last time at church before I left.
Deep in my heart I wonder
Deep in my heart I weep
I think of the times He’s given us
That deep in my heart I keep
I know time has crept upon us
I know time has brought the day
And deep in my heart I realize
It’s now time to part our ways
I know it’s hard to leave behind the memories
And it’s hard to leave behind the tears
But if we meet again someday don’t tell me
You’ve left behind our younger years
Please don’t ever say those times have gone away
Maybe that is what makes it so hard – the fear of walking away from the memories and the people you’ve created them with. Why does walking away from a season in your life have to seem like the end? But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? I know it’s a bit corny, but that old song the Girl Scouts came up with can be true… “make new friends, keep the old – one is silver and the other gold”.
This transition at this job isn’t the only bit of change rolling around in my pocket right now. I’ve just come out of a nine month sabbatical from ministry – my first in the twenty years I’ve been a pastor. I stand here now just as I did when I was a kid and we were getting ready to move from one location to the next… not knowing what’s ahead, but knowing it will be an adventure for me. How do I know? Because I have a parent who has gone before me and done all the research… and who has arranged for some wonderful new experiences for me to have and people for me to meet. But, this time it’s not my mother who’s done all this for me – it’s my Father.
“…He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end…” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
Many voices within the Body of Christ spoke about how 2011 was to be a year of transition. Maybe some of that change has been left lying around and we’re still finding it here and there in 2012. I guess I’ll do what my mom did… pick it up, put it in my pocket, and just take it with me.