There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain. Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1, 5.
Two of my kids recently went through breakups. I won’t reveal all their personal details, but I’ll say just enough to make a point. One breakup was from a relationship that was really just budding; it had only endured a few weeks, yet my daughter was very disappointed when the guy she had been seeing backed away. The other breakup was with my son, who lost his 6 month relationship with a high school sweetheart. It hit him pretty hard; I suspect he was more into her than she was into him, and he’s done the hard thing of breaking off all contact.
To quote the Traveling Wilburys: it’s alright.
These things happen, and it hurts when they do. An encouraging thing to remember when they do happen is that there is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain. Hurt won’t last; helping does. In good time, you will gather and embrace again.
You and I have each lost friends. It’s been many months since I’ve talked with or heard from some of the people I used to be close to. Our relationships became dysfunctional, and we were both to blame for that. It was sad, but those friendships ended and I don’t know what they’re doing now. Sometimes I wonder about it and wish things hadn’t come to what they did. When that happens, I think of this verse. For everything there is a time, including the times to scatter and refrain.
Some of that is healthy. If a relationship becomes one-sided, dependent, or hurtful then it can be a healthy, good thing to re-examine it. Maybe that means that the best way is to back away from it, get your bearings, cut away the extra and determine how you really feel. Most of all, find your center: seek God. At the times when we’re most vulnerable and hurting most from others, seek God and place Him in the center of wherever you are. Orbit around Him and watch how the good starts to flow. All these are the healthy ways to let good come from bad.
It’s soothing to remember that for everything there is a proper time, including times when friendships and relationships end. That’s how God designed things. Several times in the course of 23 years, my marriage has almost ended; several times this happened because of things we bottled up or things I did. Several times these things occurred at their proper time and it looked very much as if the time to embrace had turned to the time to refrain, to scatter instead of gather. The last time was THE last time because, finally, without someone preaching at me or us, we sought God. My wife did so first, seeking God to protect her heart and protect her loved ones. It didn’t take long for me to see that she was doing the right and best thing, and I learned to follow suit. To say we’re closer than ever is an understatement. She is the richest blessing in my world.
Letting God take control of my heart, my emotions and my future meant letting go of hurt and also letting go of some friendships. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes miss talking to people, but I’ve made new friendships since. It was time to scatter stones, to refrain from further sharing. In return for that, God blessed me richly, with the kind of marriage I’ve always wanted and those new friendships that are always enriching. Does this mean that faith is some kind of demand/response or action/reward thing? Of course not. What it shows is the fruit of faith, how God promises to bless us even more richly if we simply turn over our cares to Him and get out of His way. Sometimes you have to get on the other side of doing that to see that He blesses us all along, even when we can’t see it. Home, safety, friends, daily victories, daily small blessings: all of them sustain us even through the bad times. Those bad times really never do last, and when we scatter the stony hard anchors of the past we don’t always see how it is actually preparation to gather God’s fresh new blessings up ahead.
That’s a refrain I’ll embrace. I’ll say it over and over again because it’s always true.
In the case of my kids and their recent breakups, I’ll say it even more devoutly. The bad times don’t last and what you’ve left behind doesn’t shine nearly as bright as what’s good just up the road. It means having the thankful faith to get through today, to scatter and refrain so that you can be ready to gather and embrace.