Sink Your Teeth Into Life
One of the least read books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes. Supposedly it’s a wisdom book, but who understands it? “Vanity of vanities”? “Striving after wind”? Is the Bible saying life is meaningless?
The author was actually describing a contemporary approach to life: “Life is hard and then you die.” This fatalistic, even boring way of living has more cheery versions today: To be happy you must be successful! (Unless you’re not as successful as the next person.) You must have a happy family. (But what if that’s not how things are?) Make a difference where you live (but don’t think the big picture which will never change).
Scholar Craig Bartholomew opened up Ecclesiastes to me by explaining that it presents 2 alternative views: life is meaningless, so get over it. Or, carpe diem! Seize the day. Sink your teeth into life!
God thinks it’s good for people to “be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live,” that “God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; see also 2:24-26; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10.) Enjoy your work? View food, drink, jobs and everyday tasks as gifts from God? The New Testament agrees: Whatever you do or say, let that make God’s glory real to others (1 Cor 10:31). In every little thing you do, let Christ be your partner and then live in gladness and thankfulness to God (Col 3:17).
I’ve been exploring how to do this and here’s what I’ve come up with.
Live in the present moment. We tend to live in the past (Can you believe that happened? Why did she say that to me?) and the future (What if he does this? How can I make enough money to buy . . .?) When I drift into either, I say Psalm 118:24: “THIS is the day the Lord has made; I will celebrate it and delight in it.” Going off into the past or future is dangerous territory because it makes me absent from the person in front of me, from the blessings in front of me.
Groove in gratitude. I wrote “groove” because this is more than making gratitude lists (examen of consciousness), which I’ve done for years. a way of relishing the world and God’s action in it and in my life. “To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything we are given—and God has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace. Gratitude takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience” (Thomas Merton).
I italicized the words that came blazing off the page to me. This is living in the Kingdom of God here and now. I began exploring this years ago when I wrote Enjoying the Presence of God, but I’m still learning!
Grace and Peace,