Last week, in Part 2, we saw that there are some things in life that are beyond our control, and then there are those that are well within our control. Life gets really complex when we leave what’s within our control and then try to change things that are out of our control.
Life happens to everyone. There are good times and there are bad times. Those who expect only good things to happen in their lifetime are the unrealistic optimists, who are soon disappointed. Those who always expect the worst are the cynical pessimists who live a life of depression, darkness and disbelief.
The realist knows that both good and bad occur, and they are prepared with the appropriate response to whatever life brings, at the appropriate times and seasons.
This poem also teaches ‘Response’. It shows us exactly how to respond to the good that life brings, as well as the bad; in order to live a life of peace, prudence and prosperity.
Let’s recite the poem to refresh our memory:
Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven.
A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot that which is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break and a time to build.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time of wailing and a time of dancing.
A time to cast stones and a time to gather stones; 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 rend and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.
We learnt last week that birth and death are beyond our control, but planting and uprooting are. The temptation therefore is to say: “Since I could possibly die tomorrow, what’s the point of planting? What’s the point of throwing myself into the daily activities of life like starting a business, getting a job, furthering my education, getting married or starting a family?”
No, that’s not the appropriate response. Since no one knows tomorrow, the appropriate response is to do our best today, because you will be in much better shape if tomorrow came and you didn’t die, but then you had a bountiful harvest from all your toil of yesterday to show; than if tomorrow came, you made it alive but had nothing to show, because you did not plant and so have nothing to uproot or harvest.
The appropriate response to the uncertainties of birth and death, is planting and harvesting.
“Twenty friends cannot play together for twenty years”. What do you do when your relationship with some people is strained and no longer good for you? What do you do when you have outgrown your association? What do you do when that bond between you and the once special someone is ‘killed’?
The appropriate response is to break off that relationship and build new ones that match your values and you are sure will take you to where you want to go. Life will throw these kinds of situations at you; when a dear friend will stab you in the back, or a loved one will abandon you because they don’t understand your new pursuit or have found a ‘replacement’ for you.
The appropriate response to those times of killing and healing, is to break off those relationships and build new ones.
Tough times come that will cause you to weep. Good times come that will cause you to laugh. You may lose a loved one or you may gain a loved one. There could be death or birth, divorce or marriage, job loss or promotion.
What’s the appropriate response to these situations? Do you stifle your tears or do you wail loudly to get it out of your system once and for all? Do you contain yourself and act cool, calm and collected or do you dance and rejoice and enjoy the blessings that have come your way?
The appropriate response to those things in life that cause us either to weep or to laugh, is to wail or dance
People come and people go in your life. Children come, grow up under your love and care but they eventually have to go, leave the home to cling to their new spouse and start their own families or simply just leave to live life on their own terms without your supervision.
This is the cycle of life. The time will come to let go, to cast away that which you have gathered; those friends you have made and the children you have raised. What do you do when that time comes? Do you hold on to them with so much insecurity in your grip, or do you leave them be because you know that you took the time to enjoy them while they were with you?
The appropriate response to that weird cycle of life when people are gathered unto you and are later cast away, is to know when to embrace them and when to refrain from embracing.
You know, sometimes in life you have a stirring within you to seek for more, to elevate and to give your life a (new) meaning. It is something that usually happens either because of the association you keep or what you feed your mind with such as the books you read and other such input. It could also be divinely inspired.
Seeking for more out life or a new way of living means you are ready to let go of or lose your old way of thinking and living. But is that what you do? Are you willing to give up the old for the new? Are you willing to give up, to go up? Are you willing to let go and let God?
The appropriate response to life when it pushes you to seek for more and lose the past, is to decide to keep the new way of thinking and cast out the old.
Sometimes life tears or rends you apart in such a cruel way that you would want to curse the day you were born. Everything just seems to be in disarray and you are very much convinced that you don’t know what you’re doing and you are sure not in control of your life. Other times, it just miraculously brings things together. Lines begin to fall to you in very pleasant places. It’s like it has decided to sew you up, after tearing you down. It’s the cycle of life. It happens that way to teach us lessons and we cannot learn those lessons if we have the wrong attitude during those times.
So how do you respond when life knocks you down and rends you apart? Do you curse, do you speak negative words, or do you keep silent and try to understand what’s going on and perhaps learn from your mistakes?
What about when it flips and then there’s an abundance of good times and blessings all around and you get things you know, deep down, that you don’t deserve. Do you speak good words of gratitude and praise or do you keep silent and act so jaded like you know you deserve what life brings because you’ve been a ‘good boy’ and so your reward should be no surprise to anyone let alone you?
The appropriate response when life rends you apart or sews you back up together, is to be silent and learn or to speak words of gratitude and praise.
We cannot really guarantee our peace as a people because in the multitude of people there is a multitude of ideas, beliefs, dispositions and agendas. These may bring about war. Or, peace may reign because the people are civil about how they go about expressing their differing views. We don’t know which one life will bring at any given time –peace or war.
But when it is time for war, you fight for the side you love, the side you believe in, the side you stand with. This means that you fight against another set of people – people with whom you do not stand or agree, whose ideas you disbelieve, and whose guts you hate at the moment.
Yes, you are to love all, but in war do you keep loving all? Well, you do but you hate the ideas propagated by the opposite side, you hate the ideas that are evil and could live forever and affect future generations negatively. You fight for the ideals of freedom, love and rights. You fight against the evils of suppression, hate and wrong.
The appropriate response at times of war and at times of peace, is to know what to hate and whom to love.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to respond to what happens. If you respond appropriately, you will be better for it. But if you respond wrongly, it will ultimately be to your detriment. Those who come out on top are those who respond appropriately and not those you react irrationally.
That is the perspective of ‘Response’ that this poem gives me. Next week, I’ll share the fourth and final perspective on life that it reveals.