Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to From Garden to City: Ecclesiastes 1-3

I started the year intending to make it through the entire Bible using Mark Batterson's From Garden to City reading plan.  It seemed like a good plan at the time.  But eventually I got bored and reading through the Old Testament prophets just dried me up spiritually.  And so I've sort of drifted from passage to passage without any direction.  And I'm going to confess that I haven't read the Bible every day.

It's a funny thing.  Or maybe not funny.  The more time I spend in God's Word, the closer I feel to God.  Because I'm reading/listening to his voice speak to me through the Bible, I hear his voice in my daily life.  And I remember what I'm reading.  And what I'm reading gets clearer to me.  And when it's clear, and when I'm thinking about what God's saying to me, I fall deeper in love with God and worship him as I go about my day.

Still, I struggle with reading plans because they don't really allow me to read what I want to read.  Following a plan keeps me in God's Word, but sometimes those passages in the plan just don't really speak to me.  And yet, if I don't have some kind of plan, I tend to read the same things over and over and skip passages that I'm not interested in.  I really do believe that the entire Bible is valuable, and so essentially I'm limiting God by not reading his entire word.

So I'm back to From Garden to City.  Sort of.  They started with James in October.  I like James so I started with that.  The next book was Ecclesiastes.  Followed by Leviticus.  And then Hebrews.  I love Hebrews and  I'm not a huge fan of Ecclesiastes or Leviticus so I thought about skipping ahead to Hebrews.  Maybe it's the legalist in me, or maybe it's the Holy Spirit, but I didn't feel good about that.  It felt like cheating.  (I kind of think this is the rule follower in me.)

And so here I am.  I've read Ecclesiastes 1-3, and it's not terribly inspiring.  In fact, it's pretty depressing.  Solomon, the wisest man in the world, examines life and concludes, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless."

We go through life.  We work hard and earn money and success.  Or we work hard and still don't have much.  We struggle with relationships.  We party.  We indulge ourselves in whatever we want.  Or we follow the rules.  And save our money.  And then we die.  But the earth keeps turning, the rivers keep flowing, and the sun rises and sets.  Just like it did before we were born.

And if we seek out wisdom, if we examine what is known and is not yet known, we learn that the more we know, the more we realize we don't know.  And that even if we knew it, it wouldn't change anything.  In fact, if we look too closely at what we've learned, we realize it's all pretty worthless.  We look at things one way now, and think the people who came before us were pretty foolish.  In a few years, ideas will shift, and those future people will think we're foolish.

Solomon was the first postmodernist.  Or maybe not because he does ask, "Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'?" As a result, Solomon comes to the only conclusion possible and he states, "So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me."

I'm going to just put myself out there and say that sometimes studying rhetoric is hard.  We look so closely at what people say and how they use words to manipulate points of view, and I start to wonder, "What's real?"
I ask, "Does anything matter?"

I desperately need God's Word to keep me grounded in some sort of truth, and yet sometimes I ask, "Is anything true? Do I only believe because I was raised this way?" And these kinds of thoughts are exactly why I don't like the book of Ecclesiastes.  I've been thinking this stuff since high school, and I prefer not to ask these questions.

And yet failure to openly ask the questions kept me from seeking God and his Truth.  You note I use a capital "T" here. When I began asking the questions, I began finding God. And by finding God, I don't mean that I learned a lot of stuff about him.  I mean that I began hearing his voice, through the words in the Bible and in other ways too.  At first I thought I was talking to myself.  But gradually I am learning to differentiate between my thoughts and God's thoughts.

And no, I don't think I'm crazy.

But back to Solomon and his search for meaning.  He tried a lot of things, and he never did find meaning, not in wisdom and not in indulgence and not really even in work, although he does state that if we find satisfaction in our work, we are indeed blessed.

We're like animals, according to Solomon. Nothing more.  Nothing less.
And yet, we do search for meaning.  We have eternity in our hearts, according to Solomon (3:11), and so we keep chasing after that which we "cannot fathom."

We desire Truth and Meaning and Significance.  And we just can't quite find it.
Tomorrow chapters 4 and 5.

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