ECCLESIASTES 2:17 & 23
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind…23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?
So, the world has got my head spinning, per usual. There’s just so much badness in the air. This murder-suicide of a father and his special needs son made my chest seize up. I cannot process it. What is the state of our affairs and our hearts when things like this happen? And when I read presidential tweets and updates on healthcare, it makes me fear for the future of my kids. And then I pick up the Bible and it feels more hopeless, the “meaninglessness” of it all. What do you do when even Solomon, son of David and inheritor of a magnificent kingdom, gives up hope?
If I can be perfectly honest, I usually skip Ecclesiastes altogether. It feels erratic…the diary of a manic-depressive rather than wisdom from God. But I finally found an interpretation (other that the Byrd’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”) that I can comprehend. It’s all in the prepositions. He “hated life, because the work done under the sun was grievous.” If what we do is carpe diem and existential YOLO for its own sake, then we’ll be forever floundering. Because life is not going to live up to its potential. We want more than what we can see…and for good reason. We were designed for what’s beyond the sun…a place that is unimaginable in its satisfaction.
But…I’m here now, checking the clock at 11:21 a.m. and thinking about what we have in the fridge for lunch and very much on this earth. So how am I supposed to live now? If I read these verses with the eternal in my mind’s eye, then I’m supposed to work, but for bigger things. This speaks to my far-reaching disposition. I’m supposed to feed my kids in half an hour so they can grow a little more and sleep a little better and hopefully become good citizens and recycle and live their faith by loving all different kinds of people. I’m supposed to write these thoughts out so others can read and agree or disagree because it starts a conversation about something more than what’s on the news or Netlflix (despite the fact that I enjoy discussing both). I’m supposed to love my husband beyond my patience threshold because we’re all, as C.S. Lewis and the Bible remind us, immortals. These are billboard big things that make Ecclesiastes feel a little less schizophrenic when you get to chapter three and he sings the merits of a job well done. Not everything is hopeless because I am still supposed to “enjoy…work” when it’s work in the right direction. I cannot fix the state of the world, but I can continue to do the work to which I am called.
W.B. Yeats was a cool and crazy poet. He believed in the metaphysical and that history revolved in a 200-year cycle. According to him, we are destined to repeat ourselves. In “The Second Coming”, he writes, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” But I would argue that despite all my emotional triggers and the coverage on the news, we’re not unraveling at the seams. We’re not stuck on repeat. There’s another layer to the picture we’re seeing and it’s beyond time and the complete opposite of anarchy. It is perfection not catastrophe. And that is what we are called to remember.
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A big thank you from Jamie on The Mom Gene!