To anyone who’s been keeping up with my blog regularly, I apologize for not posting as frequently lately. I’d love to just blame it on life being busy with work, with acclimating to a new church, and with raising two little boys. Buuuuut, in all honesty, a bigger part of the reason for my not writing is that I had another spell of feeling completely unmotivated to write. I’ve felt exhausted from the raging whirlwind of online chatter and instead just wanted to step away and stick my head in books for a while.
Lucky for you, I always get convicted by that pesky parable Jesus told about the man who buried his talent instead of putting it to use (Matthew 25:14-30)! There’s also that verse about how a wise man never reads arguments in Internet comments.
…Oh, that’s not in the Bible? Ah well. Maybe it’s in the Apocrypha somewhere.
Anyway. Deciding to embrace my temporary case of cynicism, I returned to one of my favorite books of Scripture: Ecclesiastes!
Yes, that’s right! The one about how everything is vanity and nothing lasts and we’re all gonna die anyway, so grab a drink and stop worrying so much about everything! You’re never gonna figure it all out, but you can learn to be content and decide that you’re going to be happy anyway, because there are good gifts from God to be enjoyed along the way.
I’m terribly oversimplifying the book, which really demands to be read as a whole to be understood and appreciated. But I think it’s pretty significant that the Bible contains such a sobering and serious perspective — a bit of a counterpoint that helps us deal with the ambiguities and stresses in life. You know, those moments when we can’t really see what meaning or benefit we’re getting from all our efforts.
One of the big occupational hazards that armchair theologians like me have to face is the fact that we don’t know everything. And there’s a lot we don’t know. And we really don’t have the time to master all the topics we don’t know. Hence the warning at the end of Ecclesiastes: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (12:12, ESV).
And for me personally, I have to admit that I often struggle with the question of whether my attempts at writing and teaching are actually having any sort of meaningful impact in a world where it seems like most people would rather flock toward controversy, demean opponents, and only listen to voices that tickle their political ideologies — things I really think are often a “chasing after wind,” or at least don’t always feel like it’s my calling to jump into.
It’s nice to see that the canon of Scripture includes a voice wrestling with all that. Even if it did nothing else, Ecclesiastes tells us it’s okay to have that struggle.
But actually the book does so much more than that. It teaches us that life does in fact have meaning, even if it’s hard to pin down. Our efforts do in fact mean something, when they are done with a humble acknowledgement of our limitations and of our limitless Creator, and with an intent to submit to his revealed wisdom rather than relying on our efforts to make meaning ourselves.
Rather than being pessimistic, I personally think Ecclesiastes is actually a subtle, artful jab against autonomy in favor of community and relationship with God.
And it’s that overarching message from that most seemingly-cynical-but-actually-hopeful biblical book that was just the kick in the pants I needed to get my head back in the game.
See you down the path.