Some time ago, I saw a joke on social media that made me 'clutch my pearls' in response to some now comical, but then horrific memories from my childhood. A young boy had just been admonished by his mother and sent to his room as a response to her vexation. Of course, he reluctantly goes to his room, but right as he crosses that threshold, 'whoosh'... a strong wind loudly slams the door shut behind him. The rest of the scenario was left to the reader's imagination.
For context, let me set the place, time and culture so that you are both clear and comfortable with what transpires next. It's the 1980s in a small home on the Caribbean island of Barbados. In our culture, children are definitely seen and not heard, and on very bad days, they should try not to be seen too much. Lashes, or what the rest of the world may call spanking,are the norm in 'raising up a child' and the rod is certainly not spared.
'Time out!' - I think that's what it is called in foreign lands. To them, it was a punishment, but to us, it was a gift from God himself. A miracle! Salvation from the wrath of our parents.
In my part of the world, this time out concept was really for our parents. It was to save themselves from tarring our behinds into next year.
In life, we too go through periods of downtime. These could be self-mandated, like vacations, quick get-a-ways, mental health breaks, or they could be forced periods of isolation, i.e. punishment.
However, there is another type of time out for us adults too. These are the ones which our Father lovingly gifts us. Call it what you may, a season, a valley, consecration etc., there are times when we just need to stop and sit this one out, so to speak.
Some years ago, I found myself in my time out period. For about 5 years, I felt as though I had been separated and put aside. In this period, it felt like most things weren't working the way I thought they should. I watched as God placed a PURPOSE and desire in my heart that burned me to the core and then sent me to my room for an extended time out.
In the first book of Kings, chapters 17 - 19, we see examples of time out in the prophet Elijah's life account. When we first meet him in chapter 17, he is in his first time out by the brook Chereth. However, this was no spa day, he was in a 'kind of' exile, hiding from King Ahab. He had just prophesied that there would be neither dew nor rain for three years in a country that depended on agriculture for its livelihood.
When we keep reading, we see the provisions of God for this prophet in his season of separation.
"You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there." The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.(1 Kings chapter 17 verses 4 and 6)
However, the brook soon dries up and God sends him to another time out.
"Rise up and go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. I have just commanded a widow there to keep you fed." (1 Kings chapter 17, verse 9)
In Zarephath, a whole set of miracles unfold. We see jars staying 'mealy' and jugs staying oily (verse 16). God is good indeed! When we continue reading, we also see the miracle of a son being raised from the dead. The miraculous hands of God were just all over Elijah's life in his time out. It's the same for us too.
This week, I invite you to join me to re-assess the periods of time outs in our lives and change the narrative. Let's re-look our posture and response during these times.
Instead of exclaiming in defeat, "Lord, what did I do to deserve this?", how about proclaiming in victory, "Lord, thank you for a blessing so undeserving!" as we look and acknowledge each thing He does for us during that period. It's going to be a little (a lot) weird at first.
However, once you understand and accept that ALL things are working for your good, because you love the Lord (Romans chapter 8, verses 28), then your perspective is bound to change. You'll soon realize that this season is not just a time out, but more so, your 'Preparation by Separation'.