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Turn, turn, turn

I was honored when my former professor, Kelli Worrall, who is also a mentor and friend, asked me to guest blog on her lovely corner of the Internet, This Odd House, where she’s hosting a series on waiting. Below is my post. Please check out some of Kelli’s lovely writing.

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In my childhood home hung a beige stone plaque with loopy, cut-out letters. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1. I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I’m partial to this lovely King James iteration, etched in my memory as it traced my childish lips a thousand and one times, while I was washing dishes or eating dinner or filling up the dog’s bowl.

During a recent season of lonely and difficult change, I stumbled upon a print of these exact words at a Hobby Lobby in rural Illinois. It’s not exactly my style—black foam with gold lettering. But I absolutely purchased the thing (with a 40% off coupon, of course. How do they stay in business?) and hung it my apartment. I’ve found myself clinging to these words with newfound need.

Pete Seeger must have been touched by this verse, as he wrote a melody to accompany it. The song is Ecclesiastes 3 nearly verbatim, with the addition of a soft echo: turn, turn, turn.

To everything (Turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (Turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

(Here’s a cute video of Judy Collins and him singing it together.)

We’re getting to that time of year when everything becomes outrageously beautiful. As the leaves change and the wind grows sharp and the days get shorter, we tune into the fact that God is turning everything, always. If the seasons are a symphony, fall is the movement God plays so loudly that none can miss it. Or perhaps it’s not even the volume that gets us, but the soft and striking harmonies he creates with color and texture. Turn, turn, turn.

Fall, to me, is often about making peace with change. Chicago spends the summer in perpetual celebration (it’s all beaches and block parties and festivals around here). Come October, we start to settle (it’s all cozy socks and staying in and homemade soup). In this stillness we give thanks that summer was, and we relish that fall is, and we try, at least, to accept that winter will be. Turn, turn, turn.

Submitting to this change is ultimately submitting to the (unchanged) Changer, who was and is and always will be, unto the ages of ages.

Kelli asked me to write on the concept of waiting. We’re all waiting for a future something. I’m waiting for the time when we live close to our families again, or when we’re ready to have babies, or when we can afford a second car. Maybe you’re waiting to finally get married, or get a better job, or conceive, or pay off debts, or grant someone forgiveness.

Waiting is a human thing, which means it’s equal parts holy and harry. Every oddity of life on this earth has something to teach us about redemption (which, come to find out, is more about living into our humanity than fleeing it). There’s certainly a future orientation to this life. Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. But anticipation becomes malignant when it eclipses today. As Christians we know our times are in God’s hand, which means we can quit frittering and worrying and always looking forward.

As we await the fulfillment of dreams, as we endure change—or the lack thereof—we must accept that God has ordained a season for everything, even the broken and beautiful pieces of today. Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together. It’s certainly his will that we might have life, and life to the fullest, today. A friend put it this way: “We focus so much on fulfilling our own dreams that we forget we’re all living God’s.”

Making peace with the present then, is nothing more than giving thanks. It’s nothing more than simple, decided gratitude. It’s nothing more than submission, surrender to God’s sovereignty: past, present, and future. Gratitude in the here and now—present-tense living—may be the greatest worship we can offer God.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. This is a command Jesus both spoke and was made to obey. I think of him as he awaited the darkest moment of his life—of history, really—and the moment of redemption (resurrection, glory, ascension, reunion with the Father). Turn, turn, turn. He sat down with his disciples, he broke bread, and he gave thanks.

So I ask myself, I ask you: What are you waiting for? Is it eclipsing of today? Do you pray only for your will and your wishes, or do you give thanks for God’s will already made manifest?

In verses, in plaques, in Pete Seeger songs. In prayer, in dreams, in the words of Jesus, in autumn leaves, may you find peace in the turning by giving thanks.

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