By Mike Smith
Special Operations Command Africa
Probably the most watched and quoted movies for my kids while growing up were from The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. At times it would be a quote from Bilbo Baggins as he reflected on his many adventures, other times a smart quip from Frodo as he carried the “one ring” to be destroyed in the fires of the Mount Doom in Mordor, but most often it was a wise saying from good wizard Gandalf the Grey that would come at just the right moment to bring a smile to our family during a tough time.
Towards the end of the first movie and book, Frodo, the small hobbit, speaks to Gandalf about the trials and difficulties they faced along the journey and the circumstances that Middle Earth now faced. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Gandalf’s wisdom in words were relevant for Frodo at that time, but I believe just as applicable for the time in which we find ourselves right here in June 2020.
Gandalf recognized that sometimes we cannot do much to change the circumstances that we find ourselves living in, but we can manage and control the response to those circumstances and what we do with the time that we are given.
June is typically a “time” of transition for many families as they PCS away to their next duty station or arrive here in Germany to begin an OCONUS assignment. It is a “time” of change as the summer heat takes over and the coolness of winter and spring fade away. It is a “time” when crops begin to grow and produce the wonderful fresh vegetables that we enjoy. However, time is a bit different this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a firm grip on everything we thought as normal for this time of year. PCS moves have been delayed or some even canceled. The time previously scheduled for summer vacations has been postponed. Graduation ceremonies for high school students have been altered to simple family celebrations, and parents have gained a new appreciation for the calling of a school teacher.
The fact is, not one of us could have done anything to change where our world is right now, as these are the circumstances
that we have been dealt.
In the Bible, Psalm 90 records a prayer and meditation on the greatness of our God and his definition of time being much different than our own. He speaks that we are to “number our days” which means evaluating the use and management of our time. What we may see as terrible circumstances that have ruined our plans, God may see as an opportunity for us to strengthen the bonds of family and relationships. To recognize what is truly important in life and not become distracted with circumstances that we cannot change.
So as you and I face the summer months to come, let us not dwell on what we missed, but instead remember, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”