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Wednesday Wondering - February 28, 2024

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2    a time to be born, and a time to die;

    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3    a time to kill, and a time to heal;

    a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4    a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

    a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5    a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6    a time to seek, and a time to lose;

    a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

7    a time to tear, and a time to sew;

    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8    a time to love, and a time to hate;

    a time for war, and a time for peace.


Reflection

I have been wondering this past week about the many emotions that I have been faced with, and the reality is that many of them are contradictory emotions. I was in a car accident on Monday morning and although I was frustrated, with both myself and the other driver, I did not let my frustration impact the way that I dealt with the other driver. I have lived a life where getting angry, showing frustration, has been frowned upon, so I tend to bottle those ‘negative’ emotions up and just push them down, rather than deal with them. I have often wondered if this is the way that I should be dealing with them, or is there a better way?


For many of us this is a well-known piece of scripture and often times we pull these particular passages out when one whom we have loved has died. But I also think that these verses speak deeply to us in our everyday lives. I would like to share a story from Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer:

A few years before children and my beloved minivan, I sit behind the wheel of my red Acura TSX in a line of cars waiting to enter a parking garage. Yet another opportunity to practice patience.

Soon enough, I am next to the man in the booth.

“$10,” he says.

I give him a twenty and an “I thank you.”

He adds my money to the large stack of bills in his hand. I wonder how it feels to hold that wad of cash. He hands me a ten and a receipt and presses the button to lift the gate.

Before I press the gas, I notice the sign behind him.

$8 FOR THE FIRST TWO HOURS.

“Hey, I’m not going to be here longer than an hour,” I say.

His gaze is fixed off towards the distance. Silence. He says nothing.

I try a more direct approach: “Can I get the $2 back? I’m not going to be here longer than an hour.”

“You didn’t tell me,” he says sharply.

I counter, “I’m telling you now.”

“You didn’t tell me when you came. No refund.”

He points to the sticker on his booth: NO REFUNDS GIVEN.

“Come on,” I say. And I wait.

He is better at this game than I am.

The car behind me, seeing that no transaction is happening and that the gate has already lifted, gives a polite honk.

“I’d like your supervisor’s number,” I say.

Nothing. He is stone-faced. He knows that I’m probably not going to spend the time to call, even if he gives me the right number.

A chorus of beeps and a shout come from behind me.

I refer to him using profanity,  as I punch the gas and leave to find a parking spot.

I chastise myself for losing my cool, remind myself that I am human, and then chastise myself again for not being able to just let it go. It’s just $2. And my outrage seems ridiculous. After all, I had just given $5 to a woman standing on the freeway off-ramp.

A phone call to Marla (ROTB’s longest-serving board member) sets me straight. She says, “You have every right to be angry. You were ripped off.”

And that’s when I realize it: telling myself that I shouldn’t be upset when I am upset does not help.

In fact, it makes it worse.

I would be horrified to hear a parent tell their upset child “Just get over it.”

Yet I do that to myself.


How often in our own lives do we not give ourselves the grace to feel exactly what we are feeling at the moment? How often do we resort to negative self-talk, rather than allowing ourselves to feel what we might be feeling, berating ourselves for feeing a certain way? My parents always told me that our emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are, but it is what we do with them that matters. The reading from Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything under God’s sun. There is a time when we might be angry. There is a time when we might be sad. A time for us to grieve. Pretending that we are not allowed to feel these emotions doesn’t help us, it only stops us from processing them. I think that many of us could honestly say, that we have been through a lot in the course of our lives. It is okay to feel sad, confused, angry, tired. It is okay to not be okay.


In God’s creation there is time for it all. To know that we are not alone in how we feel can help us to accept that we can feel what we feel. To know that God knows all of our feelings can allow us to truly feel them and then process and move beyond them. There is a time for everything, we just need to recognize that that time might be right now, what we are feeling right now. To not allow ourselves to feel only hurts ourselves. So I invite you to not tell yourself that you don’t have a right to be upset when you are upset. I invite you to have compassionate self-talk. To speak to yourself with a softer, gentler voice that tells you that it is all right to feel exactly as you feel. To examine those feelings so that you might come to understand them more, not hide them away like they don’t exist. God comes to us with compassion and love, let us come to ourselves with compassion and love as well.


Prayer

God of all seasons and of all times. Help us to remember that you come to us in love. That you come to us with compassion challenging us to be people of love and compassion in our own lives. Help us to remember that this also means that we are called to be loving and compassionate to ourselves. Help us to remember that there is a time for everything in your creation. Give us the strength and courage to face what we are dealing with in our own lives, to feel all that we are experiencing in a way of love and compassion for ourselves and those around us. We ask this in the name of the one who walked the dusty roads offering love and compassion to all, your son, Jesus. Amen.

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