For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
COMMENT: Ecclesiastes is the work of a teacher who lived and wrote in Jerusalem some time after 450 BCE—after the Hebrews returned from exile in Babylon. It’s a time in which, according to the teacher, people are allowing concerns about human existence to become more important than spiritual commitment—and, conversely, using their religious faith simply as a way of improving their human lives. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” he begins (1:2), and in this familiar passage he affirms a universal truth that remains constant through all the conflicting experiences life might offer.
Metaphysically, it’s interesting to note that this passage consists of seven sets, each with a pair of opposites. From the opening pages of Genesis (and its seven days of creation) through the multiple sevens we find in the Revelation to John, the Bible recognizes that there are seven stages involved in the process of expressing our spiritual truth in human experience. Each stage is here represented by sets of opposites. The first stage involves birth and death, planting and reaping—the basics of coming into human experience through one gate and leaving through another. The second stage involves killing, healing, breaking down and building up—a step of learning how this dualistic experience works. The third stage—weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing—incorporates our feeling nature into the physical experience. Fourth—throwing away stones and gathering stones, embracing and refraining from embracing—centers us in our heart chakra, teaching that love is not just gathering, but also releasing. In the fifth stage we seek and lose, keep and throw away. This is the power center in which we begin to take ownership of our lives. The sixth stage involves tearing and sewing, silence and speaking—opposites involved in creating new possibilities by claiming our spiritual truth (“speaking the word”). And the final opposites involve love and hate, war and peace.
The important point is that both ends of each spectrum are intimately involved in the creative process we are here to accomplish. We embrace healing, and dancing, and embracing and love. We often judge ourselves negatively if we find ourselves experiencing death, and weeping, and losing, and war. But to judge one extreme as “good” and the other as “bad” is to miss the essential point that the whole spectrum must be involved if we are to achieve the kingdom.