I used to read Ecclesiastes and scratch my head. Solomon was just a little too wise for me, and his melancholy nature didn’t resonate with my desire to see a cup half-full. But after this clarifying past year and a half, I am starting to understand the book a little more, and am surprised at how his wisdom resonates. I am even starting to read the book through the full half of the cup. I am beginning to see how his Eeyore-like view of the world is like an arrow pointing to the purposefulness of Eternity.
Solomon laments (as he often does) in the opening sentiments of chapter 6, about how wrong it is that God sometimes gives wealth, possessions and honor to people, yet they lack the ability to enjoy their blessings. He goes on to say “his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial.” At first I thought this was an odd statement, since I’ve never seen a rich man lack a gravesite. But I don’t think that’s what Solomon means. I think he means no one celebrates his life at his burial.
I have spent a lot of my days fretting over what needs to get done and how quickly I think it needs accomplished. I have bossed and bullied my family to keep up with my plans. And I have been beckoned back to sanity by the sweetness of the Holy Spirit (and sometimes my family) reminding me that whatever gets done in a day will get done, and if it doesn’t get done, well that’s okay too.
Abundant life isn’t about productivity, it’s about community. It’s about relationship, and joy, and savoring, and being present in the moment we’re standing in. Abundant life is about knowing and being known by God. It’s about loving and being loved by the Eternal One. It’s about lavishly loving our neighbors, the ones under our own roof, the ones in the grocery store, and the ones living in huts in Haiti. It’s about eye-contact, stillness, service, and glee. It’s about keeping cadence with God, and letting His Spirit move through us without resistance.
Yesterday, I received a phone call telling me I had blessed someone I’ve never met and don’t remember blessing. When this happens in my life, I’m tempted to despair how many memories fall from the teetering edge of my brain and into the abyss. But almost immediately I am reminded that this is the Christian life… the life of accidentally blessing people because the Holy Spirit lives and moves within me. It’s a life of walking with Jesus, being ignited by His radiance, then passing His grace to others, oftentimes without even intending to. It keeps me humble, I suppose, because I know it is a work of God within, and not because I am awesome. Because I’m not. Left to my own devises, I am the one spewing venomous words at my husband, trying to force him to hurry his cute-booty up because he’s making me late for my own agenda. These accidental blessings don’t happen when I’m fretting over the temporal.
The people who show up at my funeral won’t be there to tell you how productive I was at knocking things off my “to do” list, or at amassing wealth and fame, riches and honor. But they might be there because I learned to enjoy the moments of my life. Because I accidentally passed them some grace when I enjoyed the moments our lives intersected.
The beginning of Solomon’s counsel is this “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (Hear the melancholy!). What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full, to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again….” (Ecc. 1:2-7).
We stood at the edge of Niagra Falls a few weeks ago, wondering how in the world all of that water existed. Where it came from. How it didn’t overflow the banks to where it was going. I still can’t make sense of it. But God… That’s the thing, right? If you stand in awe, rather than trying to figure it all out, everything is silver-lined with Glory.
I think my brain used to tune Solomon out after “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” I just didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want him to tell me how meaningless life is down here. I stopped listening right before it got good. Right before He told me that the vanity of earth should lift my vision to the purposefulness of the One who sits enthroned forever. If I have a right perspective of the temporal and the eternal, it will empower me to embrace what few, fleeting moments I have down here, because I won’t be so consumed with the next thing on my list, or amassing possessions I can’t take with me to the grave. If I remember what’s vain and what’s of value, I will bask in the moments as they come with their beckoning plea to enjoy this moment, knowing the next cannot be accounted for. I will be more apt to accidentally love my God and neighbor and self. And these temporal moments of life will give birth to satisfaction, because I will be pursuing love and the experience I am having with God, rather than all the sludge of the earth.
This world has enough hamsters on wheels. I want to be a wild bird gliding along wind currents, inviting others to join in my glee! Perching at the top of Niagra Falls and inhaling it’s wonder.
You continue to amaze and delight my spirit. Thank you!
Oh golly, Tom. Thanks for your friendship!