Today is Valentine’s Day. An alternative would be Single Awareness Day. (The fact that both “holidays” are horrible when shortened into acronyms didn’t escape me.) I don’t really observe either one. To be honest, I forgot that today was Valentine’s Day until I went on Facebook and saw the myriads of posts dedicated to this interesting day-that’s-not-really-a-holiday. I do, however, realize that for some people, Valentine’s Day is hard. And calling it Single Awareness Day fails to make it any easier.
Some of my friends have asked me if I could post the message I preached this past Tuesday at Midweek’s Valentine’s Formal, and I figured that this might serve as a refreshing little read on Valentine’s Day (or the day after for people in Indonesia). No, I’m not boycotting Valentine’s Day, nor am I donning pink and eating chocolate today. I’m writing this as I sip my Starbucks coffee and wearing my Noam Pikelny shirt. Ah. The little things in life.
About Time: on time travel and other important matters
It’s about time. This. This message. “About Time” is also a romantic movie that just came out not too long ago. It’s about this guy who has the ability to go back in time. So he kept on re-doing his first moment with this girl. Don’t you wish you have that ability? I’ve seen that recently, there are lots of movies that focus on the idea of time travel, or just a different take on time. Movies like “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “In Time,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” are among many. So what’s so interesting about time?
Our life is made up of time, but time never seems to do what we want it to do. When we’re enjoying something, it goes by really quickly. When we’re suffering, it feels like it goes by really slowly.
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
Time is a very human concept. God is beyond time. He is eternal, the creator of Time. For him, the past and the present and the future is always now. This is difficult for us to grasp because our existence is so very constrained by time. Tick, tick, tick. The clock’s always ticking. Until it doesn’t. Then we’re in a completely new realm.
As Ecclesiastes 3 states, life happens in seasons.
Time is a gift from God. Every season is beautiful. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
Further on in Ecclesiastes 3, we read, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Every single season that we experience is beautiful! People often consider births as joyous occasions, so it’s easy to say that that is beautiful. However, death is often considered gruesome and ugly. But God is saying that death is also beautiful in its time. There’s a time to mourn, and that’s is beautiful. There’s a time to dance, and that is beautiful. There’s a time to be silent, and that’s beautiful. There’s a time to speak, and that is also beautiful.
Sometimes, it’s easier to think of some seasons in life as being beautiful, while others are painful and just something for us to bear and get through. God says that every season of life is beautiful! If time is a gift from God and every season is beautiful, what does that imply for us?
Relax! Take a deep breath, and let it out. Tomorrow, the Bible says, has its own worries, and you can’t change things by worrying about them.
Enjoy it! There’s also no universal remote control where you can fast forward your life to the part you want! So might as well have fun. One of my professors in college was diagnosed with cancer, and she had to undergo treatments that left her weak and losing hair. Rather than sulk around or hibernate and never show her face to the world, she had a lot of fun with that season. One time, she came to class wearing an electric blue wig and matching lipstick. Another day, she dressed up exactly like the lady on one of those WWII posters. Fighting a thing like cancer is not a fun season, but I’ve never seen anyone pull it off that well!
Build meaningful relationships without the pressure of always advancing! In relationship-speak, build meaningful relationship without pressure of finding “the one.” I always joke around that I went to Northwest Bridal College, where you get your ring by spring or your money back! Sadly, I’ve found that a lot of people spend their time obsessively looking for Mr. or Miss Right that they fail to get to know people and hear their stories and love them the way God tells us to love them. I’ve seen girls that upon meeting a new guy, bust out their mental Mate Checklist and then, when something is not to their liking, walk away without a second glance. (I’m not saying don’t have a checklist. It’s great to have standards and know exactly what you want.)
So, what season are you in?
When I talk about seasons, I’m not limiting this to relationship status: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, or “it’s complicated.”
My friend Kristi is a new mom (and she’s rocking it!) She has entered a completely new season of life: motherhood. Kristi used to always have to have her beauty sleep, and that means at least eight hours of sleep every night. She was very disciplined about it too! Now, with the new bundle of joy, everything changed! I’ve gotten texts from her at 2 A.M. That’s unprecedented! It’s the new season that she’s in, something she needs to get used to. But it’s still beautiful, and I’m sure she won’t trade it for the world.
My former teacher just recently lost her husband to cancer. It’s heartbreaking, losing your partner in life. I can’t even begin to imagine what that is like. She is now in a new season of life. But it’s still beautiful. There’s a time when relationships end. In my former teacher’s case, it was ended by death. Some romantic relationships end in break ups, and prolonging the relationship when it’s clearly time to go your separate ways is like trying with all your might to stop time. (This reminds me of the title of a book called It’s called a break up because it’s broken.) Even in business partnerships, there comes a time for people to go their own way.
There’s a time to stay and a time to make a change. In 2006, I moved to Seattle for college, and I had a blast. I experienced very little homesickness, and it was very easy for me to plant some roots there. Whenever people ask me if I wanted to move home to Jakarta, my answer would be a very firm no. I didn’t want to move back to Jakarta. Once, I went home for a month, and I was getting frustrated and homesick for Seattle. About a year ago, for the first time ever, I felt like I wanted to move back to Jakarta. Not because I was frustrated or because I was homesick. I just thought that it would be nice to go home. For once, I didn’t dread the idea of living in Jakarta. God gave me such a peace about it too. Here I am, a year later, in Jakarta. I’ve been here for three months, and I know this is where God wants me to be. I haven’t had a meltdown, I’m really quite OK with the traffic, and I’m having a lot of fun! It’s a completely new season in life, and it’s beautiful!
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.”
1 Corinthians 7:17 (The Message)
Paul was writing this to the people in Corinth, because some of them were fussing about changing their statuses. Some of them thought that by changing their marital status, they would be more spiritual. I’m probably going to be the first to admit that sometimes I fall into a similar thought pattern. If I’m married, then I’ll be able to do more things for God. One thing I’ve learned is…
Your place in life (the season you’re in) is understood to be a calling.
Don’t spend your time wishing you’re someplace else or with someone else! Where ever you are, be there. 100%. Whatever season you’re in, make it count!
So how shall we respond to this? In 1 Corinthians 7:17, we find some practical things we can start applying to our lives. “Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.”
Live out your call. Whatever your place in life and whatever season you’re in, make it count. Use it!
Obey Christ. Maturing as disciples means to follow Christ. Follow what God tells you to do faithfully.
Love fearlessly. Love people the way God loves you, without fear of missing out or other fears that might plague us every now and then.
Believe always. Trust the eternal God with our temporary lives.
Let God define your life. Carpe Deum. Seize God!
When I was preparing this message, I was thinking that this is a very Carpe Diem kind of a message. #YOLO right? You only live once! Or think that scene from “Dead Poets Society,” where Robin Williams’ character proclaimed, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary!” Most of the time, carpe diem can lead us to a very self-centered approach, where it’s focused on us and what we can do to make our lives more meaningful. When brought to extreme, it can lead us to very hedonistic lives.
I’ve been reading Holy is the Day by Carolyn Weber, and its message has encouraged me in this last part, letting God define my life. “Replace carpe diem with carpe Deum,” she wrote. “Shift the focus from us to God. Carpe Deum grasps at God. It seeks righteousness. It touches [Jesus’] robe. It holds onto the Lord and refuses to let go.”
Often when I’m overwhelmed by life, I let go of God and grab onto me. I let myself define my life. I list what I want in life and how my current circumstances don’t meet my expectations.
Sometimes it’s hard to live out our call, to obey Christ, to love, and to believe. Sometimes it’s hard to relax and enjoy this season of life. Sometimes the pressure from people and our desires for the future work together to make it difficult to follow what Christ has for us.
The harder it gets, the harder we should hold on to him. Like the woman with the blood issue, who touches Jesus’ robe with the crazy faith that touching it will touch her life, we should reach out and grasp him with the same crazy faith.
It’s going to be hard. Sometimes, more often than not, life seems less of a fairy tale and more of a series of unfortunate events. We doubt that we have the strength to endure. But I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to grasp at God and simply refuse to let go.