A San Francisco headline reported last month that “Freedom and Fear Are at War.” Each one of us fights our own war with fear, but now we fight an orchestrated war with fear of unspeakable dimensions.
But fear can be good. There is a time to be afraid. It is a good time to be afraid if you are staring down oncoming headlights on a narrow bridge. It’s a good time to be afraid when your daughter’s date arrives in a van with no windows.But when fear impedes our spiritual walk and dams the source of our inner strength, it begins to threaten the synchronicity of living and it becomes destructive to our living.
In Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 I find an author that celebrates the synchronicity of life He voices some reassurance that not even a “new reality” can impede the timing of the things that are basic to living. He begins by saying that everything has a season and that there is a time for every purpose.
In the text that follows, he gives some key phrases, which help us understand that life is not just a series of arbitrary and unconnected events, but there is a process in which everything has its TIME.
Ecclesiastes 3 (New International Version)
01- There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
02 – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
03 – a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
04 – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
05 – a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
06 – a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
07 – a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
08 – a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
For the next several weeks I’d like to use each one of these verses to offer you some hope and reassurance that the faith which we had in a former reality can envelop this “new reality.” I will use a different verse each week to unfold a story that brings some assurance that we can still find time to give
birth, heal, laugh, dance, embrace, gain, keep, sew, speak love and make peace.
A Time to be born, A time to die,
Every quarter it arrives – my denominational questionnaire. Like all organized religions, they have a vested interest in “nickels and noses.” Every time– same questions. Name? Birthday? Address? Shouldn’t they know I was always born on Oct 4th? As for my name, haven’t I been using the same alias for years? Sometimes, the questions just don’t seem applicable – especially when I was a hospital chaplain. Perhaps they should have asked how many ties have been decorated by projectile vomiting? Neither do they ask me how many babies I have baptized, because Baptists don’t do that. Baptists only baptize people who are old enough to hold their breath.
Since they don’t ask about baby baptisms, they sure don’t ask me how many of those babies were stillborn or miscarried. I don’t like euphemisms. These babies died. “Chaplain!” the caller frantically began, “they are trying to take my baby!”
I recognized the voice of my neighbor. “Who?” I demanded. “The county sheriff.”
” I’m on my way.” I said and hung up. But it rung again.I knew some folks in law enforcement, so I made a phone call.
“Chaplain” the officer stated, “I’m glad you called. The woman living next door to you delivered a stillborn nine hours ago. She is refusing to allow authorities to remove it and won’t let us in. Can you respond?”
For the second time, I said, “I’m on my way.”Actually, the child was not stillborn. My neighbor delivered a child earlier that day with the help of midwives. The family had known for weeks that the baby would be born with only a brain stem (anencephalic) and that he would not survive more than a few hours. The little fighter surprised us all and hung on for most of the day. The father answered my knock and I was greeted by the smell of decay. Dad was holding the child with his head wrapped in a homemade quilt.
“He’s beautiful, don’t you think, Chaplain?” Of course the love of two parents who wanted this child to live more than they wanted their own lives, made the child more beautiful than anything gestation could have possibly concluded. “Yes, he is,” I simply acknowledged.The next few hours passed quickly with the visit from a very sensitive on-scene commander who knelt in front of the parents as they sat weeping on the couch with their baby in their arms. I said some prayers and we were able to eventually call the funeral home. The baby was baptized, perfumed and dressed for his final crib. Two days later a funeral was conducted and final good-byes were said.But getting back to my dilemma with my denominational report.
You do see it, don’t you? There was no place on that report to categorize the temporary billeting of an angel. It seems to me that this angel carried with him a kind of gospel – meaning good news. I guess that in the few moments the child had to breathe and sigh on the shoulder of a father who could find no end of tears, he was able to whisper a kind of hope. And if he was listening, between sobs, Dad heard this hope as a gospel or good news. The good news is that life is this kind of gift – and while its length varies with each recipient– it nevertheless remains the gift that must be expended before it can be received. Yes, when life is lived at its fullest, it will have a funny way of erupting into categories that previously did not exist. So if you are one who lives life with lists or charts, you need to come to some awareness of how important it is to allow for the creation of new categories. And like childbirth, they seldom erupt without some degree of pain.