Oooooh, we about to get emotional up in here. I’m one of those people who rarely cries in actual sadness, but will cry at a Facebook video. Don’t leather couch that too much in your brain, trust me there’s nothing there, it’s just how my tear ducts are wired. Something personal and emotionally charged happens? Let’s send that straight to the brain. Something random about otters, babies, proposals, adoptions, soldiers coming home, or down syndrome kids being accepted to college? Yeah, straight to the tear ducts, do not pass the brain, do not collect $200 dollars.
But today, I’m emotional for all the reasons.
This is a really weird week for me. I’m transitioning from one job to another, and I was given an extra week off between the two that I wasn’t expecting. So, I don’t have anything planned or anything to do because everyone else in my life has to work. I woke up this morning full of inspiration, and not knowing why. I got out my computer and asked the Lord, “what is stirring in my heart?” As the whirlwind of questions collapsed around me, I saw the purpose of this random week of nothing in plain sight: these last few days are the final punctuation marks on a season of intentional rest.
I’m not going to rehash last year, I’ve already done that here. But there is something God did for me over the past six months, a season He put me in, which is coming to a close that I want to honor.
God put me on the bench.
I was playing hard and for keeps in the game of life, checking off proverbial boxes and adding in style points. There was a time when if you asked me what I was up to or how I was doing, I could hit you – BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM – with a bullet point list that suggested I was CRUSHING it.
Long story made somewhat short: then I prayed a dangerous prayer from the depths of my heart for fulfillment, and God listened…then benched me.
I felt like the star player of my own team with 10 seconds left to go in the tied-up championship game being told I was done. Moments from achieving everything I’d ever wanted, it made absolutely no sense to walk away from it all. And it wouldn’t make sense to me for several more months.
What I initially saw as a penalty box, was exactly what I needed: a season of rest.
As I sat on the bench, unable to emotionally participate in my own life, God showed up. I was given a part time job that was just enough to pay the bills and overall served as a safe place to grieve and grow from the past. I was introduced to even more amazing people who have come along side me and held me up, laughed with me, and loved me hard. I was given time to connect with family and help when they needed me.
Looking back on that, it’s hysterical to me that I spent a lot of those first few months FIGHTING it.
“This is only temporary.”
“I’m going to start sending out my resume next week.”
“I can’t get too invested here, I’m going to end up somewhere else.”
I spent a lot of time banging my fists on the walls of my penalty box until one day I just stopped. I sat down. And I drank in the rest that God was forcing me to have.
Today, as this season of rest is coming to a close, I asked God to show me what the purpose of this time was so that I can carry the lesson with me into this upcoming time of busyness. He pointed me to Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace…He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
At first blush, this verse is very encouraging (don’t worry it will end up being encouraging still), but if there’s something I’ve learned about scripture it’s this: you can’t just pluck it out and fully understand a few verses’ weight without understanding the context from which you grabbed it. So, I dug deeper.
I mostly dug deeper because I noticed that a lot of the other chapter titles within this book contain the word “meaningless.” No big deal, I’m familiar with the verse from this same book that says, “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” But I assumed this meaninglessness was relegated to things like wealth and toil…however, for the first time I noticed titles such as “wisdom is meaningless.” This didn’t feel biblical even though it was right there in the bible staring at me, so I asked the internet what I was missing.
Turns out that the English translation of the original word “hevel” to “meaningless” is a poor one (shocker…don’t get me started on the limitations of the English language). The word hevel actually means all of the following: temporary, fleeting, an enigma, a paradox, something that appears solid but when you try to grab onto it, it vanishes, vapor, chasing after the wind. So even though the act of chasing after wind would result in a meaningless endeavor, the word hevel means so much more than that.
The understanding of this word opened up Ecclesiastes for me. Because it doesn’t signify that everything we do is “meaningless,” which would be a very depressing way to live, it simply means that we are chasing after the wind unless God is at the center of it all.
As the Bible Project put it, Ecclesiastes serves to “deconstruct all the ways we find meaning and purpose apart from God.” Thanks to how time marches on regardless of our actions and the great equalizer of death, nothing we do REALLY matters when done apart from God. When we chase after the wind, we create a major void in our hearts and lives that cannot be fulfilled by chasing after MORE wind. Because even when we “grab it,” it vanishes.
That’s what I was doing. I was playing hard and fast with the game of life, achieving what I felt were good and righteous endeavors, but I was doing all of it apart from God. It truly was meaningless.
The author of Ecclesiastes is also important to our understanding of it…even though there is some debate as to who exactly the author is, it is widely accepted that King Solomon wrote this book, which adds on a whole other layer of meaning here. The man had EVERYTHING. If you wanna talk about someone who was ACTUALLY crushing it, it was this guy. All the riches, respect, women, sex, gold, silver, armies, wisdom – all of it was his. And his conclusion? It is all meaningless (hevel) apart from God.
So, as I lay in this bed, full of rest, I am brought to tears in the sweetest way. I knew God was rescuing me, but now I know what He was rescuing me from: a life of meaninglessness. Not that what I was doing wasn’t good or important, it was just a life that He was left out of. I was forced to lay my prerogative aside, and in that space, God showed off. He made himself so undeniably known in my life, that even the mundane is full of meaning. Even the rest is full of life. Even the waiting is full of purpose. Even the unknown is full of peace.
So yes, there is a time for everything, and we control none of it. Which in a way, makes our attempts at changing life meaningless. But, we have something to hold onto during the chasing, we have something to trust in during the fluctuations, and we have something to bring purpose to it all.
Time marches on, and it is now time for new adventures, busyness, and work in my life. But I will forever be thankful for the space that was created in time so that I could find rest, so that I could embrace the hevel of life, and so I that I could know to pursue the Creator first.