To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)

I grew up on music that, in the 90s, we called the “Oldies” – much of it from the 60s and 70s, when my parents were growing up, hitting their teenage years, and becoming young adults.

Now, of course, there’s a lot more that I could consider “oldies,” but still some of these early tunes that my mom and dad played in our house or in the car – when I was too young to assert my own musical choices – they have burned themselves into my brain.

And one of them, a 1965 song by The Byrds, called “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” has been coming to my mind more and more lately.

As the song reminds me, with words plucked straight out of Ecclesiastes,

to everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)

and a time to every purpose under heaven

This is the time of year when I start thinking about seasons much more, because I’m excited for them to change: after all those months of summer heat, I’m ready for fall colors and flavors and chilly nights and warm sweaters.

But even as I get ready to bring out my flannel shirts again, I am mindful this year that there are several season changes that we’re all navigating right now, ones that are hard and may even bring some grief with them.

Last year, as the pandemic was just exploding onto our local scene, no longer a headline from oceans away but right in our community, my sister came to stay with me. And she stayed for six months; six of those long, lonely, scary first months when we were only venturing to the grocery store twice a month, wiping down all of our packages, and wondering if we should wear masks when taking my dog for a walk. It was wonderful to have her around, to have someone to hunker down with while the world seemed to devolve into chaos all around us.

She left in the fall, to go pursue other work – but as luck would have it, she came back this summer for a couple of months. A couple of months when I was moving into my very first home of my own, and navigating the world as a fully vaccinated individual; when we were starting to meet in large groups at church again, and even venture to restaurants and baseball games.

It was different this time. A different season.

We both realized it, and were grieved by it even as we celebrated some of our new freedoms, rediscovered from pre-pandemic days. It was no longer us hunkered down against the chaos without, but us navigating a new season that we didn’t yet understand. A season somewhere between the height of the pandemic and the hoped-for end of it. A season where the world was knocking at our doors again, and we had to figure out how to let it in, and when, and what we would welcome back.

And those conversations with my sister helped me to realize that we’re all struggling in this new season. Struggling to know what feels safe, what is safe for us to do, in these days of the Delta variant and back-to-school and booster shots and more. Struggling, some of us, with the demands to leave home again and go back to offices and get out in the world. I know I’m having a hard time with the pace of life ramping up again, with the pressure to get busy and get back to my pre-COVID rhythms.

Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote a wonderful essay (for subscribers) recently about this struggle, and she included a line that has stayed with me:

“I haven’t been the me I am now for very long.”

The “me” I am now has been through some serious challenges this past 18 months, and she is just learning what she can and can’t do as this person who she is now:

A person, it turns out, who can open her home to some friends, and take an airplane to see her parents, and go to see the Cubs play.

But also a person who won’t go back to living a highly-scheduled life with commitments stacked on top of each other and no buffer room between them.

Someone who, despite it all, can still do hard things, but who gets to choose what some of those are.

The same is true for all of us, my friends. We haven’t been the people we are now for very long. And we will need to be gracious with ourselves, and so very patient, as we navigate this season, and figure out who we are now.

We can do this. We can do more than we realize. In this season, as we strive to do some returning, let’s be brave, as Nadia reminded me, but let’s also be so very gentle with ourselves and with others.

Amen.

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