Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wisdom from Qohelet

I’m loving this spring season. As I type up these thoughts of mine this morning, I’m glancing out my window into my backyard. It’s full of trees and ferns…part of what remains of the greenbelt around the perimeter of the residential housing area in which we live. I love the contrast of the bright green leaves and dark brown trunks after a good rain. I have a couple of vines I planted last year that are taking off. One had seemed to die last year (the one on the right), but it’s making a great comeback this spring.

But while I’m loving this spring season, I’m also thinking about another kind of season. Qohelet, the Teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes, (Qohelet literally means “she who calls, she who assembles”) tells us there are many seasons…a time for everything. In chapter three Qohelet says:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
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,
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.

Springtime reminds me of the time to be born. But then in the same line, I’m reminded there is a time to die. That’s harder to think about. It’s so nice to sit here and gaze outside (or better yet, go outside) and enjoy the beauty and new life. I could just sit and soak in the enjoyment. Not so with the thoughts of aging and dying.

My mother’s health has been declining. She’s in the winter season of her life. That’s not something on which I like to dwell. But it’s part of the natural rhythm of life. Qohelet, in chapter 12, reminds me of this natural aging process:

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"- before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim…” The last verse is a picture of aging. Keepers are our arms, the strong men are our legs, grinders are our teeth and those looking through the windows are our eyes.

My mom doesn’t have much money. She lives on social security, which puts her around a thousand dollars over the poverty line. My siblings and I help out, but she still watches her pennies. She lived through the Great Depression and she does know how to be frugal. I love her ways of giving. She and I share a love of suduko puzzles. So she writes me a note about once a month and sends me sudukos she has clipped from newspapers. What has struck me lately is the change in her penmanship. Her writing has always been so good. It’s shaky now. She's becoming the picture Qohelet is describing.

Qohelet reminds us all that no matter what, no matter in which season we find ourselves, there is still joy to be had. Even in the midst of our circumstances, our limitations, our aging, we can be realistic about what we have to endure and still experience life as a gift and rejoice in it. My mom still finds joy, which makes me glad. And I cherish the time I still have with her and the rest of my family.

So as Qohelet would tell us, savor each day. Find joy in the moments of your life. Hug your family.

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