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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Life is meaningless? Part 1

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." 3 What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
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For some reason I want to challenge myself to wade through this intriguing book in the Bible.  With every year that passes, it becomes more appealing to me.  I used to find its content depressing, but as I age, looking back on my past and into my future, there is mystery in this text that is inviting and exciting. 

One of the things that draws me to this book of the Bible is it's honesty, not it's truth.  I say that because even as I read this first chunk of Ecclesiastes, I don't agree with the author.  I think he's telling the truth, but I don't think he's sharing truth.  Here's what I mean.

I don't think everything is meaningless.  But I do think it feels this way at times.
I don't think that toilsome work leads to no productivity.  But I think there are days when it seems so.
I don't think the earth remains the same from generation to generation.  But there are days I wonder.
I don't think repeating rhythms of creation like the sun, the wind, and the water are metaphors for banality and monotony...they are examples of a fine tuned universe functioning in perfect harmony.
I don't think all things are wearisome.  Yet there are times of meloncholy where it sure looks that way.
I don't think my eyes and ears have seen or heard all there is to see and hear, but I can lock myself away in depression removing myself from new sights and sounds making it look that way.
I don't think we've seen it all.  I think there are new things under the sun every day as we discover new heights and depths.  But with all our discoveries, it sure feels like they lose their luster fast.
I don't think it's impossible to say, "Look! This is something new!".  I know this because I've been a part of a generation that is developing new things by the day.  And they don't just stumble across stuff, though that occasionally happens, they soldier their way into the jungle as pioneers and happen upon new discoveries that make the last generation look like they were standing still.
I don't think everything we find was here long ago.  It had to be made.  I concur that nothing has been created, only God can do that...but out of what God created many things have been invented.  Again the cell phone and the internet are two inventions that didn't exist when I was in high school...so they weren't here long ago.
I don't think everyone dies and is forgotten.  I know this because I'm still reading the Scripture and celebrating the personalities and stories of a good many dead disciples.  I think it feels like you expire and life goes on without you as if you never existed, but there's no question, some people leave a mark that is forever remembered and revered. 

So, here's my interpretation of Solomon's rant in the beginning of Ecclesiastes...he has experienced all there is to experience in his generation without reservation and none of it has brought satisfaction...abiding and enduring fulfillment.  And he is telling his story of the emptiness of it all.  In his brutal honesty, he's going off about how useless and purposeless it all seems.  Nothing feels memorable or meaningful to him.  It feels like a vaporous vacuum.  It feels like sand through the hourglass.  He feels hollow and fallow and shallow and callow.  And he is.  He has spent himself on everything he knows to be worshipped in his era, the best of the best and the most of the most...all to discover that stuff never satisfies. 

He is so surprised in his lack of satisfaction that I believe he oversteps wisdom to make a point and in so doing shows his ignorance.  But that's what I find refreshing about this book...not it's truth, but it's honesty...and thus it's truth.  Sometimes I'd rather be in a conversation with someone giving me their unedited thoughts and feelings, flawed and flaky, than with someone who is trying so hard to be right that they aren't true.  I want to just say, "Forget about framing your feelings and just tell me your unfettered thoughts.  I'll read between the lines and interpret it according to the context of your experience.  Don't think so hard, just tell me what you feel."  That's what I believe is happening here.  And I believe God inspires honesty as much as he inspires truth.  I believe God let's this text remain in the canon of Scripture, as he allows many other misunderstandings and misgivings by authors guides by his superintending Spirit, to give us permission to be human and to tell our truth as we see it and feel it.  It may not be the gospel truth, but it is true and part of how God has allowed the gospel to be unveiled and displayed.

I don't know what you feel about life today based on your disappointments, but isn't it refreshing that God can use your limping logic and your leaps of logic to move you and others from what feels true to what is true?  I wonder what I'll discover about myself as I let myself "be" instead of "trying to be".  There's lots of possiblity preganant in that thought.

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