"No one can keep from dying or put off the day of death. That is a battle we cannot escape..." (Ecclesiastes 8:8)
The erratic swirling motion in the weeds caught my attention as I walked today. With the telephoto lens on my camera I was able to see that this winged-creature was mired in a spider's web. Just the edge of one wing was stuck, so the creature flapped its wings at hyper-speed, then paused to rest before trying again. I watched it repeat its fruitless efforts for several minutes. It was apparent to me that death was not far around the corner. I even thought about trying to help free the critter, but I figured that if the web was that sticky and powerful, I would probably wind up just further entangling the poor thing. After stopping to change to another lens on my camera I turned around to take a few more photos and was greeted by -- the sight of an empty web. This time the little critter had escaped what I thought was to be its certain death. I was wrong...
So... it got me to thinking... How do we know when to move on? How do we know when it's time to bring one chapter of our life to a close and start the next one? How do we know when to struggle against death (or some other change) or accept the inevitable and live graciously into life beyond that death or change? As a pastor I can remember being confronted by that question many times when I've walked the journey of terminal illness or some other crisis with others. I can still see the faces of those who've asked, "When do I fight? How long do I fight? Is it ever okay not to fight? When is it okay to accept the end? Am I a 'quitter' if I stop fighting and get ready for the next chapter of my life? "
These are important questions we all face from time to time during many different kinds of crises in our lives. The crisis might be a severe illness or it might also be a difficult time in a relationship. Obviously, the little critter I met today knew that it was time to fight, so it fought mightily and won. How do we know? Can someone else know for us? I guess that's what I have come to know over time -- that I can't know for someone else. I know that it is important for us to reach a point in some crisis in our lives where we move from fighting to continue one chapter into closing it and moving on to the next. However, I don't think I can tell someone else when they've reached that time, even if the person desperately wants me to make that decision for them. I can only walk with them as they discern that transition point with God. I can let them know that there are times when it's important to fight. I can also let them know that it's okay to reach the awareness that it's time to start a new chapter. I can assure them that after prayerful discernment with God writing a new chapter is not "quitting" or "giving up," but I can't tell them when that moment has arrived for them. That's a very sacred moment between an individual and God. Once the decision is made they have to be able to trust it. The only way to trust that decision is to know it is their decision borne out of prayer and wrestling with God, not simply the opinion offered by a well-meaning friend.
Besides, look at today. I got it wrong. I was certain that little critter was buzzing away its last few moments of life.
I pray that God will help me discern the moments for my transitions - when to fight, and when to accept change - when to stay, and when to move on. I also pray that God will give me the wisdom, patience, and grace to walk with others through their crises and transitions. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
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