On January 1, we said yes to forever with each other.
On March 24, our city shutdown, effectively saying no to everything else. At the time, we lived nearly 50 miles from each other. In the new world of stay-at-home orders and face masks, it felt like 500 miles.
Now barred from going anywhere but the grocery store, I projected my dashed hopes and dreams of this would-be-wonderful year into planning our July 26, 2020 wedding.
And then as the “two weeks to stop the spread” slowly morphed into one month, and then two months, and then three, I didn’t know where to place my hopes anymore.
Could our wedding day even happen as we planned?
If not, what should we do?
Will they give us our money back?
What if we scale back? And if we do, how far should we go?
Will our immediate families even be able to attend under the current orders?
The one thing I hoped would bring me joy became a moving target.
Maybe for you it’s the hope of a new or perfect job, the relationship you’ve always wanted, the education or lifestyle everyone else seems to have. I’m convinced we all have that one thing we’re reaching for.
Even more than that, I’m convicted that it is all in vain.
It’s no coincidence that around the time quarantine began, I happened to be studying the Book of Ecclesiastes. The paradoxes found in this book of the Bible helped me to embrace the fleeting nature of my pursuits while also encouraging me to find meaning in each moment.
Ecclesiastes teaches us that life is hevel. That’s Hebrew for:
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.
“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.
“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
What does a person gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-4 (CSB)
As much as I tried to hold on to my wedding as a source of joy during this uncertain season, I was reminded again and again that life itself is uncertain, a vapor, temporary.
The things we look forward to, the things we reach for, can vanish so quickly.
This is a sobering truth. What do we do, how do we live in light of this?
Here are a couple of my reflections:
Enjoy the gifts of each moment.
The fact that life is short and fleeting does not take away meaning from our everyday experiences. Rather, this truth should encourage us to find more joy and meaning in our day to day. This requires a paradigm shift in how we view ourselves, our role in the world and the story God is writing.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (ESV)
The brevity of life doesn’t take away from the truth that it’s still a gift.
Remember the big picture.
In instances where joy or meaning are hard to find, as followers of Jesus, we have the future hope of glory. As my dear childhood pastor always said, “this life is a dressing room for the next.”
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)
Ultimately, it is keeping an eternal perspective that has given me the most heart as I prepared for this new chapter. I’m so grateful for this future hope. Unlike the things I am tempted to look forward to or put my trust in, I know that my God is good, faithful and trustworthy.
“In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that ultimately in this world there is no finished symphony.”Karl Rahner
For the believer, Karl Rahner’s words are a comfort. Ecclesiastes teaches us to enjoy the music now with the hope of a future song.