When it comes round to the week before Christmas, and presents start to pile up under the tree, something snaps inside of me and I revert to a 5 year old. This Christmas just gone I almost had a tanty when I realised that mum had sealed up my stocking with some really strong wirey stuff that I would either have to cut of (and then figure out how to replace it) or spend an hour or so wiggling it off and then attempting to get it back on if I wanted to find out what was inside before Christmas morning.
There is something in me that can’t let presents sit there, with my name on the tag and not try to figure them out. I press, I squeeze, I shake… I close my eyes to try and make my fingers some how more sensitive and analytical in an attempt to figure out exactly what it is that lies beneath the shiny wrapping, because waiting two more days just seems too much for me…. I know, it’s more than a little pathetic but I just can’t seem to help myself. I want to know what good things are in store for me before it’s time to open them.
Or at least that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to since a friend gently chided me the other day on treating life like the presents under the tree. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that sometimes the good things in life are like the presents and some presents are more fragile than others. We run the risk of crushing, damaging or breaking the fragility of them by all of the shaking that we do in trying to figure them out ahead of time. That sometimes, horror of horrors, there is joy in waiting until the right moment and being pleasantly surprised to find out what is hiding beneath the paper and the bows.
Which, if I’m being perfectly honest, sounds just lovely and all gooey when you put it like that (lofty ideals are nice after all) but is just flipping hard to put into practice! That bright shiny thing with my name on it potentially holds the promise of something really good, which is intended for me!!!
And you’re telling me I need to wait? I need to be patient? I need to hold back and have someone else tell me “ok, now it’s time to go for it”?
Ugh, shoot me now or put some restraints on me… or just don’t show me that the presents are there and within my reach…
But maybe, just maybe, there is a little sense in what my friend challenged me on too.
This morning I picked up the second in a series of sermons on Ecclesiastes (pop over to itunes and download smbc’s podcasts) which focused on 3:1-14:1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
9What does the worker gain from his toil?
10I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
KP raised a number of great points in terms of how we approach time and waiting (especially in western culture), weighing up the fact that most of us will approach time as a quantity and not a quality. That we too easily forget that the other dimension to a great BBQ with friends, is the measured moments of buying the food, chopping the salads and washing the dishes. We will enjoy one moment in time and yet begrudge the other that enables us to enjoy all sorts of experiences.
If it’s the first eight verses of chapter three that show us the multiple dimensions to time and human experience, then it is the following six that help us understand the tension of why we find it so hard to wait in between those moments of quality.
As we keep asking what to do with the moments of time that we’re in (laughing, weeping, mourning, dancing, life, death) we face the desire to predict the future for the comfort that it will give us today because:
He has set eternity in the hearts of men
Talk about your killer lines!
To quote KP’s sermon:
We have a human capacity to imagine the future and be aware of more than just the moment but He doesn’t tell us what we’re going to need to do from beginning to end but that instead we live in His creation with it’s properties of time and space, and that isn’t always easy to do….
Nope, I think we can all agree that isn’t easy to do – but taking a step closer to look again at verse 14 we can see the motivation behind the wisdom, for He is the one who works in, through and above time and has it all in His hands. That the goodness of His plans will last… forever
… beyond that glorious moment of freeing the present from under the pesky sticky tape. Verse 14 also hints at something bigger as well because it seems to be that it’s in the practice of waiting and patiently enjoying the moments of uncertainty in those dual dimensions of time, that we are also bringing Glory to Him as He glorifies Himself in having it all in His hands.
There’s no doubt in my mind that 48 weeks from now I will be back to crawling around under the Christmas tree trying to figure out which gifts are for me and carefully examining the shape of them to try and imagine what’s in store. In these next 48 weeks I want to put into practice the joy and delight of being thankful for each aspect of the dimension of time that I’m in (the good, the bad, the ugly and the sublimely beautiful) because He gives us the freedom to do so.
I want to keep remembering that what’s in store is precious and can be damaged when I try and rush into figuring it out – when I get so caught up in the future that I forget to handle with care in the moment…