I used to think I was a good listener. I’m a keen believer that listening is crucial to good communication and essential to having good relationships. But the other night I learned something about listening…from my four year old. Read more
Literature throughout history brims with statements ruing the futility of life. Perhaps the most famous of these is found in the book of Ecclesiastes in which Israel’s King Solomon goes to great length detailing his attempts to find meaning and fulfillment. Known as one of Israel’s greatest kings, Solomon was “greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.” His fame quickly spread throughout the ancient world, leading foreign leaders like the Queen of Sheba to seek him out for his great wisdom.
In his quest for fulfillment, Solomon pursues just about everything under the sun. With the world at his feet, he tells us “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” He seeks out wisdom, justice, learning, hard work, wealth, and power. Solomon sums up his grand experiment with the words “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” His conclusion of the matter ends with “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” spoken with the understanding that man’s ultimate hope in life is that God will one day bring every deed into judgment, whether good or evil. Solomon, the great king and the wisest of men, lived a full life with every earthly advantage. Yet from his words it seems he didn’t find the fulfillment he sought so earnestly.
Looking around at our world today, we can easily nod in agreement with Solomon. Life appears to be somewhat futile. The good suffer, the evil prosper, and ordinary days lead to more ordinary days filled with the banal. Pleasure leaves us empty. Even learning leaves us cold. Honest reflection of what we’ve learned reveals more of what we don’t know and simply can’t understand.
In marked contrast to the many statements of futility, Jesus tells us that there is indeed more to life. Like Solomon, he is also a king. He is the King of Kings. This King came quietly in the night, born in a rugged stable and lived in relative poverty and obscurity. Until the beginning of his public ministry at the age of 30, he was relatively unknown. Jesus’ words are a balm to the aching wound of meaninglessness. He tells us that there is more to life and that “more” is found in him. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.
What if in the midst of our circumstances, our ordinary days, we took Jesus at his word? What if we took a hard look at our lives and asked ourselves what are we striving for? What are we seeking to find our fulfillment in – pleasure, money, knowledge, status, power? An honest look would reveal that all of these things come up short. What if we stopped seeking and striving for anything but Jesus himself?
Making the choice to seek him in our ordinary days could open our eyes to the extraordinary all around us. My daughter, Sofia, sees the world around her as one that is filled with wonder. What appears to me a simple shadow cast on our driveway from the noonday sun is transformed into a marvel of a playmate. Attempts to outrun her newfound friend end in a pile of giggles only to be curtailed by bursts of Old McDonald and Twinkle Twinkle. Through Sofia’s eyes, the caterpillar that once ate holes through the green leaves on my roses isn’t a nuisance but rather another playmate, albeit a furry one. Even while mummified and still, it’s being transformed into a grand monarch. Watching it take flight as if relishing its newfound freedom last spring, I smiled in wonder and Sofia grinned from ear to ear.
Fulfillment in life does exist. Not in our earthly strivings, but in the one who promised that if we became like little children, we’d see the glory of promise all around us. Answering Jesus’ call to passionately live this life with him finds us stepping out of the blandness of our lives and walking straight into the life we were created to live. Seeking him is where life really begins. Imagine what we might see and experience once we do.
Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com
It was a haunting picture, one that I can’t seem to shake. On the front page of a news site, staring back at me was a picture of a young boy. He looked to be about the same age as my son, maybe nine or ten years old. Taken the day of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the boy’s face was grey with ash from the fallen buildings around him. He looked deeply saddened and as if he was in shock. He probably was.
My initial anger over what seemed like an exploitive photo opportunity has morphed into the reality that this young boy’s pain captured in an image has served to perhaps shake us out of our daily routines and feel the deep urge to do something…something to ease his pain, something to help him and the many, many others living through this tragedy. My heart aches for this boy and the many other children that are at this moment facing such physical and emotional pain.
World Vision is on the ground in Haiti providing desperately needed relief and aid. To help, please visit the World Vision website.
The Image of God
O, Lord! that seest, from yon starry height,
Centred in one the future and the past,
Fashioned in thine own image, see how fast
The world obscures in me what once was bright!
Eternal Sun! the warmth which thou hast given,
To cheer life’s flowery April, fast decays;
Yet, in the hoary winter of my days,
Forever green shall be my trust in Heaven.
Celestial King! O let thy presence pass
Before my spirit, and an image fair
Shall meet that look of mercy from on high,
As the reflected image in a glass
Doth meet the look of him who seeks it there,
And owes its being to the gazer’s eye.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A new year brings time for reflection on what has been, what is, what is to come and the possibilities of what could be. I find myself without any specific resolutions, but rather a desire to be that “image fair,” a reflection of the one who is perfect in love. I am grateful that as flawed as I am, through Him, I can be changed. As one who owes her “being to the gazer’s eye,” my trust in this new year is in God, who although unchanging can bring great change and hope. Happy New Year!