“Is there any scripture you would like preached? Anything you can think of that maybe your dad would have wanted?”
“Ecclesiastes 3,” I replied confidently. “It’s my favorite.”
I lied, but when my dad died, this chapter was preached at his funeral.
I remember the question so well because it was one I didn’t have the answer for. Even as a little girl, I felt like I had all of those, so I lied. I said Ecclesiastes 3.
The truth is, I didn’t know any scriptures and I didn’t think my dad did either, but I remembered a friend at school saying she liked that scripture because it talked about dancing. I loved to dance, and this kid, she knew some scriptures and so did her parents so that must have been a good one. It had to be better than John 3:16. That one was the only one I knew and it certainly didn’t fit the occasion.
Ecclesiastes 3: A Time for Everything
3 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.
As I sit here this morning starring at those four bony letters, my heart races. The time right now is 3 A.M. The floors are cold, the house is still, and it’s air is heavy.
Nearly 14 years later, with only a month in time separating the two tragedies, I sit here thinking about Mom’s funeral too, only this time I know the Bible.
I know that Genesis holds the beginning and revelation the end. I know the four gospels, but that John is my favorite because it’s account of Jesus is more intimate. I know that 1st and 2nd Samuel tell the story of David. I know that Hebrews 11 is the faith Hall of fame and that Hebrews 12 is about discipline, that Romans paves the path to salvation, that James was written to the believer and gives some instructions for life. I know that the Peters do too. I know that 1st and 2nd kings are historical and tell big stories of loss and victory, that Joshua is a book of promise and Isaiah one of prophecy, that Esther is a book of a girl and her calling that God was never even mentioned in, but was making a way to preserve the Jews and thus protect the lineage of what would be Christ.
I know stuff now, even some theology, yet these few days proceeding my mom’s death I’ve just thumbed through pages, and while touching it’s pages has brought me comfort, my Bible hasn’t brought me any insight outside of what I know in my heart to be true.
God is only good.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 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. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.
“I don’t even know what to read; I don’t even know what to pray,” I told my husband last night.
I guess there is a time to know what to do, and a time not to.
Yesterday the time to be at the funeral home was 10. I tried to text my sister to check on her, to tell her I was fine this morning, and I’d be on my way soon. As the tears fell from my cheeks as I typed, though, they were warm, and my phone’s letters couldn’t differentiate which warm belonged to my fingers and which didn’t. It spelled things wrong.
I think grief, if it were drawn out, would look a lot like that, trying to separate in it’s heart what it feels from what it knows- to pick through all of the things that should stick around in there and the things it has to release… but I bet in time we will know. That’s what people say.. “time heals all wounds.”
Time heals. Gosh, how much time? I guess if we knew from beginning to end the amount of time we had in the middle, maybe we could make something out of it?
If my life were a book, this is the part where I’d let my fingers rhythm the rapid rate of my heart right now and lead me to the story’s end to teach myself all of the things that would make this middle worth it.
I wonder if my mom felt that way too? She was 50, that’s half way, you know.. on the hill but not over it. I bet she thought often about her sobriety, about the places it would take her after the two finally met one another in full and they could help more people. I bet as she rocked my babies she saw all of the chances she would get back as a parent. For all the years of their lives I’ve watched her take each cackling baby laugh, every single hug captive, carrying her a step closer to her healing. Her’s was a story I never thought to get ahead on because I was sure of how it would end: much older, wiser, restored.
The advantage a book has over a life is it’s weight. For every page I turn in a book, I can estimate how many more I have left to sift through, but with every day of life, every hour of air holds but one guarantee- for the believer it’s that God has a plan but for the unbeliever.. it’s that there isn’t one.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I was wrong. There is no more appropriate place to remind a people of life’s ultimate purpose than another life’s end.
Not believes and has it together, not believes and understands, not believes but needs some time… but who so ever, anyone- everyone, that believes shall be saved.
My dad died in his 30s, my mom at 50. U.S. life expectancy for the year of 2019 is 78.87 years. Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything, but it does not say there’s a time to wait.
Time. It’s something we’re all so sure we have more of. I’ll fold the clothes later. Call me later. Remind me later to tell you. Talk to you later… See you later.
See you later. I wish I had said that or an I love you the last time I said anything to my mom, but my last message just said ‘okay’ instead because it was a text message and not a goodbye.
Sure, I’ll see her later, and maybe you will too, but what matters is that we see her now.
“Now that all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14
The book of Ecclesiastes is one you cannot interpret correctly without also reading it’s final verse. No matter what the mysteries and apparent contradictions of life are, we must work towards the single purpose of knowing Him.
“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. Do not say to me I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done. I passed by the vineyard of a man lacking sense and behold it was covered with thorns, the ground was overgrown with briers, and I saw it and considered it. I applied my heart to what I observed and I learned a lesson for what I saw. A little sleep, A little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come like a thief in the night and without like an armed man”
Proverbs 24: 27-34
This is the first scripture I’d read after her death. I think it’s message is a mouthful.
Do it it right and in order. Get to the cross and give your heart, and when that’s done you go to building, build your home and then the church. It doesn’t matter who says what, you be good because the bad grows easier than the good and a little rest from tilling could mean overtaken.
The average daily death rate is 7,708 people per day. Every day we waste harboring the bad things, consumes the souls God purposed for good. We can’t make the difference in 7,000 lives in one day, but if one more person could be saved every day one less perishes forever.
We have time until we don’t. Make plans, but don’t let them hold you back. Healing doesn’t always look the way we prayed for, but on the days we can’t be sure of time, we can be sure of Christ.
I pray that you just help me pray. That living without parents will make Kristen and I better ones. That our hugs will be longer, our actions more intentional, and our wills your will, God. I pray that healing only started with Mama’s death, that it would bring healing in our own lives, in our own relationships, and our own families. God that we would know that generational curses are real and that it’s up to us to stop it here so that our kids and their kids and theirs have full hearts in unbroken homes in places that dishes are for eating and not for throwing. That words like addiction, divorce, and division are things we protect against and not things we pray through, God. We need her death to mean more than just another loss in a long list of losses for us, that people would be saved by her testimony, that because of our testimonies God we can be more for you, that you will use us to our full on the days we feel like it and the days we don’t Lord. Father, so much is dead now, I beg you God that our faith not be. God we believe, help our unbelief. God we thank you for sustenance, we thank you for provision, we thank you, God, for you.