Every day in the criminal justice system, offenders are convicted and given sentences. Those sentences depend on the crime committed and where it happened. For example, in the state of Florida, one statistical report noted that drug offenses were averaging 3-year sentences; burglaries warranted 4.6 years of incarceration and murderers received a sentence of about 23 years.
A sentence is ongoing. And to the person having to serve that sentence, it can seem like forever. It is much like the mother of twin toddlers. She is convinced that her “sentence” of unending diapers and feedings will go on and on forever. Likewise the parents of mouthy teens are convinced that they have been “sentenced” to a life of unrelenting stress.
If you happen to work with a miserable lot of unhappy co-workers and a nasty boss, it can definitely feel like you have been “sentenced” for crimes you didn’t commit. It can seem unending and self-defeating.
But if we change our perspective just a bit, we can see that in actuality we are not experiencing an interminable sentence, but maybe just going through a season of life. Toddlers grow up into different stages of life. Teens do eventually develop a frontal lobe and mature. Even co-workers improve and relationships can mend.
The “trick” is to see our current hassles as part of a passing season, not an unrelenting sentence of despair. Let’s agree with Solomon, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecc. 3:1)
This week regardless of the season you might find yourself in, remember that it is in fact a season and not a sentence. It is only temporary (even if the end in sight is heaven itself). How we respond to the season makes it livable.
The waves and cycles of life can be debilitating if we allow them to take control. But if our perspective has a clear focus on the rhythm of life, we will soon find encouragement.
Maybe it will help to ask these three questions: What can I learn from this set of experiences? How will I become a more patient and loving parent? How will I gain insights into my work world?
Secondly, let us ask, “Who will benefit from how I respond?” Framing up real people who will benefit from our temporary struggles will help pave the way for meaningful understanding.
Lastly, let us ask, “Where is the joy in the process?” It’s hard to tolerate smelly diaper pails, crying teenagers and cranky coworkers unless we intentionally look for the positive “silver lining.”
Remember, it is a season not a sentence!