Choosing to Purr in the Stress of a Dog-Eat-Dog World”
Life offers us a lot to worry about. To jump to the chase, I can unload a couple of examples from my own past 2-3 weeks:
-Pressing through the late nights (1-2 AM nights) finishing study preparation for finals, completing final projects, and otherwise, officially concluding the semester with performance quality that I not only want to be honoring of Him, but also keeping the academic record strong enough to keep the door open for future schooling.
-Job interviews: Well, calling it an interview might be too much, but the last few weeks I went through the preparation of revising my resume, trying to pack in every potentially eye-catching detail of any noteworthy accomplishment, in hopes to win the hire for a new Small Business job at my company. Requiring late nights at work to print reports, engage in market research, calling and interviewing prospective sources of recommendation and sources for the inside “scoop,” this extra project would have been nice if it came at an different time of year. It’s taxing but…worth the potential reward, right?
-Staying up late to complete these obligations because of choices to be available to some new and old friends who needed a patient and caring ear during the earlier hours of the day. Although I enjoy it… in light of the season, and the tasks and deadlines mentioned above, so too this was exhausting. Where does one find motivation for “pushing through the grit?” I’ll admit, personally, a good portion of it comes from self-talk and utilitarian thinking: “Come on, you can do it, just think about how much better, how much freer, how much more satisfied, you will be when you tackle this assignment, and its behind you. Think of how helped this “disciple-ee” will be after you grind out and invest that time. Think of the opportunities that could open for you if you make the effort to well prepare for a new position… it’s far wiser, and better to persevere through the deadline-grinding times, for the future reward.”
There are two interesting words in this cloud of thought: persevere, and reward. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that there is benefit and wisdom to pounding through life’s times of exhaustion, with the vision of how this investment will pay off in the future.
Except… for Qoheleth.
Yes, the “Teacher” of the book of Ecclesiastes has a slightly different perspective: ”[box] “I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” (Ecc 3:18-22 ESV) [/box]
Throughout the book, we, the student, are repeatedly told that “all is vanity,” all is “hebel” (in Hebrew)… all is vaporous, temporary…of non-enduring value. In this passage, he humbly reminds us that not only are we sadly bestial and malicious in our behavior to one another (check out the preceding context sometime for more), but that we are like animals in another way: we all DIE.
In these verses, death actually seems to be the final frontier. The tension and question raised by 3:21 suggests that the author had little, if any, confidence in an afterlife. The grave and decomposition is the end of the road. And, if this is the case: grades, jobs, wealth, security, reputation… these things are not bad, but really… they are vaporous, temporary, meaningless-vanity. In these endeavors, there is no reward.
So then, what is the point? The application is clear- when death sets our perspective on life, our lot, our portion, our reward while in this life (as other Scriptures tell of the tremendous rewards and blessings and glories we are to share with our Savior in the End) is to be happy and to enjoy our work, our activities, our situation in life…today.
To make the intentional choice to chose joy- whether you’re in a moment when choosing joy is easy, or when it’s not- is to taste and to have real tangible reward from our work between here and when Jesus calls us home. To lose or to miss out is to let the moment go by without enjoying it, not to lose the interview, to drop a letter grade, or to not offer someone a life-changing sagacious epiphany.
We were designed to be creatures of joy. Creatures of happiness. Sadly, an unbelieving world might think that to be a Christian is to be kill joy- to sign up for a life of suppression and depression. But wisdom tells us that skillful living is to enjoy the work and the tasks that we have.
To all busy minded and all workaholics out there: beware- to not enjoy and to find room to rejoice in your activities, is to cheat yourself out of wisdom’s reward.