“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.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Today I want to talk about a trend at this time of year. One we don’t often talk about, but one we should consider now.
It’s this feeling we carry around—especially during the holidays—that there is so much to get done and not enough time. It’s one of haste and restlessness. We have to check that thing off the to-do list so we can move onto the next. We have to say yes because we’ll be judged if we say no. And we MUST serve the best Thanksgiving dinner—with everything we’ve always served with it—and it should definitely be on time.
I’ve noticed an underlying theme of this trend: we seek to do more and be more so we can deserve the season. Maybe it’s a guilt that stems from feeling we don’t deserve all the good people in our lives; we seek to better serve them so we can be worthy. Or maybe it’s a guilt from feeling we have more than others; when we walk by a homeless person during our errands and think about our good fortune, we feel the need to do more to deserve it.
These aren’t bad emotions to confront. They motivate people to do good. They stem from empathy and the desire to make the world a fair place.
But we must be careful in how we carry that guilt.
The biblical quote above came to mind this last year while visiting my boyfriend’s family. It was in a season of constant productivity. I was in the middle of my post-baccalaureate studies and a job search, and money was tight. But we still said yes to a 10-day trip to Cucúta, Colombia.
What struck me most about this trip was not the craziness of being in South America, as I had anticipated. It was the pace of life into which we transitioned.
Everything was slowed down. We got up later, we sat and did crossword puzzles all morning, we took several hours to get ready, then even longer to get out the door. Each meal was an ordeal comparable to Thanksgiving dinner. We took the long naps, even though we hadn’t really expended any energy. And every night ended in several hours playing Dominoes.
On the third day, I began to feel restless. I felt I had allocated too much time towards relaxation and not enough towards deserving it. I felt the need to take out my laptop and do work all morning so that I would earn the relaxing evening to come.
But naturally, when I tried, I was interrupted by my boyfriend’s Colombian family who wanted to tell me a story—in a language I don’t fully speak, mind you—and I had no choice but to close the laptop and be fully present. I couldn’t do anything but sit and listen. As I lay in bed that night, I felt overwhelmed by a sense of guilt. Did I deserve this? And will I regret not getting that homework done?
Thankfully that night, I decided to pray about it, as there was still a week to go. And some of the words from the verses above came into my head: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
I thought about how when I returned back home, my life would go back to work-mode. This wouldn’t be my reality. I wouldn’t be able to just sit and soak up the amazing culture around me or the tremendously kind people who were trying to share their lives with me.
And I became aware of God’s lesson here. Maybe it was time for me to be still. Maybe in this season—and others in my future—I could just let what was happening, happen. Maybe I didn’t know just how much I needed to rest and be present, but God did.
Beyond that, I thought about how I could trust that the universe would force me into a faster pace when it needed to happen. Then slow me down again when that needed to happen, too.
This ebb and flow of life is natural. It is good. The rest that is offered to us during the holiday season and others is what heals us when we need to be healed, reminds us to be present when we’re not, and helps us to look around with fresh eyes. We take time to be grateful for what we have and to be re-energized for work ahead. Lord knows we will need the energy and good spirits when the pace picks back up.
I encourage you to remember this as we approach the holiday season. Rather than filling up your schedule with every little thing you can possibly fit in, take things more slowly. Be mindful of your time, leaving room for God to fill it with what matters. Don’t worry about the turkey cooking on time or getting filled by food and drink, but instead, look for times you can be present and be filled up by this necessary and beloved season of life.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” —Colossians 3:15