Life can get so daily
By Charles Qualls
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, we get some practical wisdom for living. Some think that King Solomon himself wrote Ecclesiastes. Others would argue that it couldn’t have been him. Whoever contributed this little book of the Bible, they had lived.
Qoheleth, as the writer calls himself, has achieved. He or she has bought, tasted and lived a good bit of what life has to offer. This “teacher” or “collector of wisdom” has also reflected. At first, the writer could sound cynical and bored with life.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn … .” This is a stretch found early in chapter three.
In these words, we find balance and variety. We find give and take. We also notice that this poetic stretch actually captures much of the normal lifespan we might put in, all under God’s loving and watchful eye.
Does your life start feeling too routine sometimes? Too “daily” to be anything other than monotonous or boring? What if so many whom we depend on decided that their own lives were too boring and they simply weren’t going to tolerate the sameness for another day?
Your courier might not deliver the package you are waiting for. The teller might not be there to solve your problem at the bank. The stocker might not have the groceries you need on the shelves at the store. Your doctor might not be there to keep your appointment and the lawyer might not have processed your crucial document.
Thomas Edison didn’t simply show up one day with a finished idea for a light bulb in his head. Instead, he showed up at the laboratory and failed time and again before one day he finally succeeded. We all have some sameness to the living of our days.
So, what is there that will help our lives in Ecclesiastes 3? First of all, one conclusion is to admit human limitations. We simply do not have God’s abilities nor God’s patience. Another related conclusion is to notice that we do not relate to time in the same way that God does. The Bible demonstrates that much happens “in the fullness of time.” We have so little patience and impulse control to address things that we can’t see an ending for. Speaking of, the writer also noticed that we cannot see time as it has passed before us, nor can we know of time as it will be after our era.
All we can see is all we can see. God’s wisdom and perspective are different from ours. What appears to be getting nowhere in our days may be a vital link in what God is doing beyond us. Problem is, we just can’t know.
A group of Johns Hopkins sociology students needed a project. They dug up some projects done by past classes to see if they might gain some ideas. One survey that had been done 20 years before with children in an impoverished neighborhood nearby intrigued them. They decided to find the children, now grown up, and test to see if the predicted outcomes had materialized.
For instance, the writers of the old project had concluded that because these children’s lives were so unstructured, impoverished and lived in the shadow of crime, they too would likely move into criminal lives as they got older. However, 20 years later not one of these children had a criminal record. Instead, some of them had become teachers. One or two had become lawyers. Some had become dentists and one had become a doctor. How could this be? Slowly, they interviewed these young adults again. One common thread became evident.
There was a little lady who lived in the neighborhood. Everyone knew her as “Aunt Hannah,” even though she was not related to any of them. She saw the children regularly as they grew up. She asked them about school, and helped them with their homework. She steadily challenged them to achieve.
We can’t always see what all the daily is accomplishing. But God can. We don’t always know where our lives will fit into something grander than us. But God does. These seem to be among the conclusions that Ecclesiastes’ writer has reached. Something to think about.
THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.