A time to break down

Day Three – A time to break down –

It is so intriguing to me that there does not appear to be a negative-positive, or positive-negative rhythm to the words in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Check it out below or open your Bibles. It is not as though the negative in each line is presented before the positive (kill, heal) nor the positive always before the negative (embrace, refrain from embracing)*.

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 cast 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 cast 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.

Sit with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 a moment. Take a pen or colored pencil if you have your Bible and mark out a few of the phrases that stick out to you. Which ones sound positive to you? Which ones sound negative?

Words have emotion attached to them for most of us. When we read the Bible we can be aware of our own pre-formulated ideas around words, and ask God to open our hearts to hear His Truth through the mire of our life experiences. I think we’ll find together, through this study, that God’s ways and words aren’t always clear cut with positive and negative. There are a whole lot of hues of grey wonderfulness if we can sit back and let God reveal the struggle and the beauty in each little thing.

Break down seems at first glance to me like a negative phrase. Things that come to mind include a nervous breakdown, breaking down of relationships or trust, and breaking down a building that is aged or decrepit.

The Hebrew transliteration of the root word parats can be translated to tear down, break down, break through, a breach, to break away, an act of violence, an outburst, or to press or to urge, or even to scatter, or spread out.

Interesting to me is the use of the same word in Genesis 28:10-15:
“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder[ set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above itand said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

This is the same root word in verse 14 that is translated to spread abroad. Breaking things down sometimes looks like spreading things out. Many of you have moved, many of you have moved more than once. Maybe one of those moves felt like God breaking your heart, maybe it felt like new adventure. Maybe you feel differently with time and space. Spreading out can be hard, looking out a rearview mirror at family and friends, missing birthday parties and dinners together, trying to make new friends. But how often does spreading out turn into something beautiful?

In Acts 8:1-4, there is another scattering. We get the benefit of years and the whole story in history is see the value, but I wonder if any of those early disciples were groping for the positive in the negative.

“And Saul approved of his (Stephen’s) execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”

Not to language overwhelm you, but the Greek here for scattered is diasparentes. This sounds similar enough to me to our Hebrew root to take note. God spreads, God breaks down, God takes bricks of His living stones and builds churches and community and spaces where His Word can be heard and hearts can be filled.

The positive is so often wrapped in paper that doesn’t always look pretty.

One sunny morning in 2001, Dave and I hiked a mountain in India. We were on a trip for cross-cultural experience for Seminary and were matched up with a guide that was a professor from the Lutheran Seminary in Nagercoil, India, Joshua. We had driven to visit a Hindu temple, eaten lunch and were on our way back, when the SUV stopped, Joshua got out, and stated as plain as day, “Now we will climb a mountain.”

A bit stunned, we climbed out of the vehicle in our flip flops (standard India footwear), and began hiking. Our fellow travelers eventually dropped like flies over the daunting task of climbing over boulders, and through little crevices, and up and up and up. My adventurous spirit warred with my screaming calf muscles, “Give up!” “Where in the world are we going?!” “Is this really worth all this?” “Keep going! You never know!”

Adventurous spirit won and Dave and I blindly followed our seminary guide up the hard and rocky pathway. At 10am on this bright and beautiful Indian morning, we reached the top of this small mountain and our guide announced,

“You see, all around you, these are the roads the Early Christians traveled to escape persecution. These are some of the first areas reach beyond Judea with the Gospel of Christ.”

A grueling hike, cramped muscles, heaving breathes. Only beautiful. I could literally feel the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before and stood around me.

Sweet sister, what seemingly negative walk have you taken in this life, that has God shown you His beauty in? Where has He shown Himself that you may have missed the first time around?

Scattered, broken down, pressed hard, a breached. He is working in it all.
May you be blessed today with the knowledge that not only His mercies are new every morning, but His grace is sufficient for each day- positive or negative.
Please ignore my freakishly large hair. Tropical climates and I always make for excessively large hair.
Discussion questions:
What seemingly negative walk have you taken in this life, that God has shown you His beauty in? Where has He shown Himself that you may have missed the first time around?
What adventurous thing have you done that at first you found yourself grumbling over?
*There may in fact be a rhythm of sorts in the Hebrew, but we need a scholar for that, so we’ll leave that work up to them.
*Sources include: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, biblehub.com/interlinear, Matthew Henry Commentary, and Luther’s Works (vol. 15)

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