Dear RNnews reader
If I had to choose a theme for 2023 for my own life, it would be the Ecclesiastes’ wise words: There is a time for everything.
My teenage daughter described 2023 so beautifully the other day: 2023 was not like a playful wave that unexpectedly knocked our feet out from under us. It was a giant wave that thunderously broke on top of us.
Not only for our family, but also for people around me, 2023 was a time of pain, sadness and loss. For me it was time to say goodbye to my father; a time to see our daughter break down under the pain of a friend she had to give up to death; a time when I had to pray like never before when our son was hit by a car; a time when I had to sit for hours and hours next to my mother’s hospital bed and ask her to go home – but it was not yet His time for her. A time in which I myself staggered more than once under the weight of the people around me suffering and hurting; which I just stayed standing because I knew God would stretch my tent pegs wider for me and lift my chin for me.
This week I had the privilege of attending the annual Kansa Tea. At the tables around us sat women for whom it was a time for remission; for some a time for chemotherapy and radiation; for some a time to wear a headscarf and for others a time to show off their brand new downs; for many a time to wait for the next round of tests.
For many people, time has run out. On one of the hostesses’ tables stood a small tree on which hung a bunch of photos – all photos of people who attended the Kansa tea last year, but who have since lost their battle against cancer.
If I scroll through RNnews’s news, 2023 was a time of war; of crime; of strikes; of load shedding; of a struggling economy; from fires, floods and earthquakes.
It was a hard time.
It is difficult for us to imagine in a time like this that a time for one thing is always followed by the balance to the other side, as it is described in Ecclesiastes 3. Because if we have to apply the pattern in Ecclesiastes to 2023, it means a time of joy is coming; a time to be born; a time of healing; a time for peace; a time for a better economy; a time when we will feel safe again. We are almost too afraid to believe in these things, because didn’t we tell each other at the end of 2022 that 2023 was going to be a better year?
I don’t really have an answer to my own questions.
But I know one thing, and that is that I am almost out on the other side of 2023 for only two reasons: Because other people made time for me, and because every thing that happens to us, in God’s Plan and his great Fit timeline.
There were people who made time to deliver meals for our family. Colleagues who helped arrange my father’s funeral despite their own limited time. Friends who pinched off some time to call and ask, “how are you?” or to sit with me next to my mother’s hospital bed for an hour. Strangers who stopped while our son lay in the road, and took time to pray for him while the ambulance was on its way. Teachers who took the time to love our daughter. My loved ones, my husband and son and daughter, who find time to bring each other a cup of rooibos tea.
Today I get a note in my e-mail box from a beloved uncle – a RNnews reader who years ago, in response to one of my letters to the editor, sent me an e-mail for the first time. Meanwhile, we became, one might say, pen pals, but also much more than that; actually just family. When uncle Johan and aunt Maryna come to visit their children in the north, they make time to come and drink coffee with us on RNnews’s stoep, or to visit me and my family. And when I was in their region the other day, it was my turn to go chat with them for a day.
“I pray for you,” said Uncle Johan in his letter to me today. “When I read RNnews today, I had to scroll far back to find one of your letters to the editor.”
It is so. Because you choose what you have time for. There is no time for everything – as I write here, my e-mail box is getting small; the budgies’ cage still hangs outside in the dark; the children’s lunch boxes still need to be packed and my roses need to be watered. Something always remains behind.
But first I choose to make time now to write this letter, because I know someone needs to read it. That this year was not only a year of sadness for me, but also a year of the greatest miracle I have ever experienced. That I live knowing that my father has laid up for himself treasures in heaven, even though his time on earth is over. That I know God still has a plan for my mother’s life, even if she lives on borrowed time – even if it’s just that she has to hand out hugs to the staff in the home with her Alzheimer’s body for a while longer. That I realize the struggling economy forces us to look up, notice each other and care for each other.
In Ecclesiastes 3:4 (1953 translation) it says so beautifully: “… a time to mourn and a time to leap for joy.”
I can already see it – how we jump for joy here in South Africa. We South Africans can be so exuberant. Maybe – hopefully – it will already be on Saturday night with the Rugby World Cup final. Maybe this is the day we hear it’s the end of load shedding, or that an interest rate and fuel price cut is on the horizon.
Or maybe it’s just time to jump for joy because we have each other. Because God says He wants to give us a future and an expectation. Because He makes everything work together for good, even if it seems impossible to us at the moment. Maybe we have to jump for joy for no reason, or maybe because we find our joy in the Lord and not in earthly things. Or just because it’s time.
For myself, I pray for 2024 these words in Ecclesiastes 3:12: “Then I saw that there is nothing better among them than to be happy and to do good in life.” In 2024 I will make time to be happy and make time to do good.
I pray it for you too.