Solomon wisely tells us:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7, ESV)
I look at that list these days and I see “a time to weep…a time to cast away…a time to mourn.” And then I also have to think about “a time to love” and “a time to keep silence.”
All this comes to mind as I contemplate the state of my family. Our oldest will be graduating college and has informed us that she will be moving to Germany this summer to live with a family as their “au pair” (fancy word for “nanny”). She’s always wanted to travel, and apparently she learned about this idea from her college German professor (yes, I’m planning to have a talk with that guy). She seems to have put a lot of thought and prayer into it, so as tough as it is for mom and I to think about our baby in a foreign country with no “safety net”, I have to think there is a time for everything. A time to just love and keep silent.
To make matters worse, our oldest son (who graduated last spring but wasn’t sure about his future plans) is looking at college in the very near future. Along with his little sister who will graduate high school this spring. So, while not a definite thing, we could be looking at one daughter in Germany, and two others leaving the house at about the same time. That would leave us home with just the nine-year-old (a frightening prospect on many levels!)
A time to weep. A time to cast away. A time to let go. I know parents go through it all the time. Granted, the timing of our little exodus seems a bit more drastic than some: three of the four possibly flying away at once. But still, it’s a part of life, and I have to deal with that.
In all, it’s a lesson in the temporary nature of things in general, isn’t it? All of this life is but a vapor. All of it will pass away. Nothing here is permanent. We all face the temptation of holding on to things too tightly, finding our comfort and strength in things that are ultimately weak and worthless.
Solomon’s wisdom, of course, ends with saying that the “end of the matter” is simply this: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) He is our rock and fortress. He is our only permanent source of strength and comfort. He is the only one we can look to and know for sure that our help will come.
In the end, we’ve done our best to teach that same thing to our children. And so while it scares me, worries me, even maybe angers me to have my children abandon me like this (ok, so that’s an exaggeration), I have to rest and trust in the fact that they are in the hands of God; a far better, safer, more solid place than I could ever give them. I have to trust that whatever foundation we have given them, by God’s grace, He will cause to hold firm.
There is indeed a time for all things; even a time to let go of those precious ones God has blessed us with for a time in this world. Still, learning to let go is just that. It’s a learning process. And I’m afraid I’m a slow learner. So pray for me.