While I was helping out in our regular Saturday night “soup” run yesterday, I had two meaningfully, pleasant, separate conversations with two of my rough sleeper / living on the edge friends, both aged around 50 but looking a lot older. In both conversations they shared how they felt that the time for them to die was near. Yet it wasn’t as morbid as it might sound, for they were realistic about where they were in life at this time, and even amidst darkness and despair there was light and hope. Moreover, both were strangely encouraging toward me as at the time I did not feel quite right in myself (actually I felt drained physically and mentally). It got me thinking about words from Ecclesiastes (chapter 3), which I am about to share:
“1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which 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 cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, 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 of war, and a time of peace.”
Sometimes, there is an inevitability about these things and often for one thing there is the opposite and as to which is to apply this all depends on the “season” and the “purpose under heaven”. For me, the frustration (coupled with guilt at times) is that given indifferent health conditions I am able to do less than what I would like and used to do in the past and such is my mental state I often find myself lacking the motivation to do what needs to be done, especially when it concerns the important every day and mundane things of life, even feeling it is now my time to die and be consigned to the annals of history, to be remembered for a while by a few who are near and dear. But the two bits of welcome advice my concerned friends were to focus on the present and take time out to avoid burning out.
As some will know, I am anti “culture of death” and pro “culture of life”. Not only does it mean I oppose babies being aborted, human embryos being experimented on and the allowing of assisted suicides and euthanasia, but it also means my working to avoid the needless loss of life that comes from displaced refugees, famine and disease and helping the likes of my two homeless friends into a better place – and as I further reflect that means there is a lot of work that can be done and some of it is for me to do. It means for me that life is for the living and, as much as is possible, to be lived to the full. When it comes to dying, which may well be soon (and it might not) that really is a matter for Almighty God to determine.
It is true then that there is “a time to die” and while it would be nice if my passage had added the words “a time to live”, it did better than that by preceding with the words “a time to be born” suggesting that one of the amazing aspects of creation, where we can play a part, is in bringing into being new life, and this can be done in all sorts of way besides bearing children. Right now, and this is for all of us, this is a time to live and going down our “time” list we might add while we are at it is also“a time to love”. One thing to be sure, those around us will soon know when it is that time for us to die.