By: Dennis Bates
Every now and then in my brief writing career, life breaks out. I almost hate it when that happens. There is something about stroking my little laptop fondly first thing in the morning that is almost sensual, in a good way, of course. I can get lost one on one with my little friend for hours…days even, and frequently I have. I look forward to days when I have nothing else planned because that means nothing comes between us.
Then there are the other days…lately far too many of them…where I have to pretend to be a normal human being as much as possible, whatever that really means. You know, the days when you have to get your oil changed, your hair cut, your grass mowed. I’ve grown less and less fond of those days; they just get in the way. Then there are the days when your spouse waives her hand in front of your computer screen and says sweetly, “Hey remember me?”
But I’ve talked about that before and it never ceases to get me into trouble, which just takes more time. All those apologies, all that groveling. It’s better not to go there to begin with.
I worked the first part of my life in a job that had minimal intrinsic value, if any. I decided that in retirement, I would do what I felt called to do and only those things I really wanted to do. The Holy Spirit has been understanding and loving enough to me to make those things come together. Still, periodically, I have to remind myself that there is more to life than a 160 GB hard drive and wireless internet access.
Nothing speaks better to that point than Ecclesiastes. Chapter 3 tells us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun. At first blush it seems to be a call to arms, an invitation for a person to work hard and enjoy their work. But a closer reading of that book shows us clearly that even that is meaningless, especially if done for the wrong reasons.
The last part of chapter 12 says “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity.” Some translations interpret that to say, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” The point is the same. Everything in this world is vanity, meaningless and pointless. Even all our efforts for good ultimately mean very little. That would include our deepest passions, and my writing, among other things.
If we stop reading there, Ecclesiastes is a depressing, negative book that substantiates its own premise by itself being meaningless. But it doesn’t stop there; it offers us hope even when we think we already have what we need. The last two verses do that:
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
No matter what we do or how much we love doing it, our real purpose, our chief end, is to fear God and keep his commandments. Everything that ignores that or forgets it is meaningless.