Quite recently I've been clued in on a very awesome book of the bible that I seem to have neglected some how. Considering it's one of many books within the Old Testament it comes as no big surprise. This book, however, has done me a ton of good and has put a lot of stuff in perspective for me. It is by no means the easiest book of the bible to swallow, but I could easily rank this one among my top 5. Easily.
As some of you may already know, I just completed my 20th year of life on this awesome planet God put me on. I've learned a great many things these 2 decades of O2 inhalations and I thought a blog post summation of some of these important lessons would be just plain nifty. Reading through the book of Ecclesiastes again (the book mentioned above), I found that it pretty much addressed most of them pretty well. So why not kill 2 birds with one blog post and talk about the bible and life? This is such a strange concept; I know. Bear with me on this one folks. Also bear in mind that I am not an expert scholar or interpreter of scripture. This is just what I've pulled from it. I'm not going to go through all of the verses that I love in this book, but just a few. I'll save those other good ones for another day.
So much of my life has been spent on searching for understanding. "Why do we live? Who is God? Did he really make us?" are all questions I've asked myself in the past plus many more. It's not been the easiest of journeys. These are things that every human being struggles with in some form or another. It's tough stuff that isn't exactly easy to answer. Sometimes we are lucky enough to catch a break by being able to wrap our heads around one of these questions sufficiently enough to be "content". It's easy to assume that things will be just plain peachy once we have all the answers. To be wise and have understanding is going to make things a breeze. I've become very fond of verse 4:7 in Proverbs that says: "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Thought it cost all you have, get understanding." So much so that part of the verse is proudly displayed on my blog. In the past I've naively assumed becoming wise would solve all my problems. I would understand the workings of things right? What could be go wrong? "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief." Ecclesiastes 1:18. That one is an eye opener. Who would think things would get harder the more we know? In these past 20 years, wisdom has been bestowed on me from various experiences in my life. None of them have been what you would call a cake walk. Had someone asked me if I wanted to forgo the lesson I would learn after surviving such a trial at the time, I would most certainly have accepted their offer to skip the whole thing and go on with the easy life. Asking to be wise has caused all sorts of things to happen to me that I've never considered. It's been a torturous but also fulfilling journey. Knowing what I know now though, I would definitely not skip a thing.
Relationships have become such an important part of my life these past couple years. I used to take for granted my friendship and other sorts of relationships I had with people around me. I was really just in it for me, and if that relationship didn't benefit me then I'd scrap it and move on. Often, if things were tough in my life, I would disconnect from these relationships of mine and just go it alone. I would turn away from my friends and hide in some dark corner somewhere to marinate in all of the muck and bile that was consuming my life. It's a very destructive way of living, and it's been rather tough to get over. I have come to cherish some of the relationships I now have. They have gotten me through so much. Without them, I would not be as strong a person as I am today. Making myself vulnerable to people has to be one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with in my life. Confessing to another human being that I am imperfect and I need some help bad has scared me out of my witness more times than I care to recall. It still does. Being able to hear from someone that things will be OK, to hear that they understand, and to see the kindness in their eyes has just blown the lid off of all of those fears of mine though. It's irreplaceable. Without my friends I would be no where. They've gotten me through so much and have helped me to become the man that I am today. When satan has come stomping down my door, it's been such a relief to have a friend of mine standing there ready to punch him in the face and push him away. It's awesome. "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. a cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 3:9-12
"Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand." Ecclesiastes 5:15. Everything that I own, everything that I earn, everything that I win is going to pass away. I can't take it with me. So often do we put value in material possessions. We can't hold onto this stuff forever. It doesn't belong to us anyway! What use do we have of it when we're dead. Storing up my treasures in Heaven instead of in my room has been a much tougher thing to do than I thought. Parting with a few bucks to give to a homeless man or dropping a few coins into the can of the person in front of the grocery store is a battle when you are thinking every cent counts towards that new ipod or game system or what have you. It's come down to saving money to feed our brains nonsense rather than feed an empty stomach on the street or somewhere else in the world. It's been a hard lesson for me to understand, but I think I'm getting it.
I've always been one who is quick to anger. I have a reputation for sometimes being a hot-head at home. So often does my temper get the best of me and hurt the people that I love. It causes me to become impatient and short with people and cause sometimes Irreparable damage to relationships. Relationships that mean a lot to me. I can't begin to describe how man times I have regretted saying something so hurtful that it cuts too deep to stitch closed out of anger. Never a fine moment. It's really quite stupid, especially when you blow up on someone who cares for you and is trying to help you. Being called out for being wrong has always been something that has bothered me. In the past it has caused me to take juvenile little disagreements and make them personal. It's retarded. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to let them go. I would find myself mulling over a stupid disagreement that meant nothing. I would be totally pissed off beyond all reason about it too! It's funny because when I see this in other people, I get totally pissed off and annoyed at them! It's totally ridiculous. Putting my pride to the side and being patient with some people has been a tough thing to do. It's something I always have to remind myself to do. With some people more than others. "The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools." Ecclesiastes 7:8-9.
Earlier this year I was going through quite a rough patch in my life. Things were just not the way I wanted them to be. I was completely miserable. My relationship with God was on the rocks. I had neglected all interaction with my creator. My bible sat neglected on my desk collecting dust for the longest time. I was depressed all the time and just plain angry with myself. I used to dwell on the past and how great I used to be when I would eagerly read my bible during school and highlight away passage after passage. I thought they were the greatest moments of my life and when I was strongest. I thought I would never be that great again. I was wrong. "Do not say, :why were the old days better than these?" for it is not wise to ask such questions." Ecclesiastes 7:10. What I failed to realize was I was not so perfect back then. I was just remembering all of the good things and forgetting the bad. And on top of all of that, I was totally disregarding the fact that I still did not completely understand what I was doing back then. Things have gotten better since then because I've allowed myself to move on and to learn instead of focusing on the "greatness" of the past and not go any where and just mope.
My life has been no where near perfect. I have often found myself crying out and asking God why these terrible things are happening to me, or why they are happening to other people. So often to we cry out in our anguish and wonder why we have to endure such torment. What purpose do they serve? "Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." Ecclesiastes 7:13-14. Much like the things that may happen to us, this verse is kind of hard to understand. Basically put, who can say what purpose these things serve? Who says they are just for us to suffer? So often have I found that the experience that I have drawn from some earth-shaking conflict of the past has given hope to someone in desperate need of help. My suffering has produced not only strength in myself, but also in others. It's crazy to see that happen sometimes. When your realize that braving that crap storm of the past has toughened you up to pull someone else out of their own crap storm. It's nuts! Knowing that you cried out then to find some understanding, when it is standing in front of you now, plain as day and critically important to boot. This world may be crappy sometimes, but I believe things happen for a reason. And when that crap storm looms on the horizon, consider what strength you may gain from it when you are on the other side of the catastrophe rebuilding yourself much stronger to possibly withstand the bazillion mile per hour, debris-flying-through-the-air craziness to come.
This next one I have learned the hard way. It slapped me in the face one night when I was trying to figure out when and how to speak to a person who is very dear to me. I'm an impatient son of a gun. I like to go in and get things done when I feel like it. It's gotten me into some trouble sometimes because I didn't think it through before hand. Things still don't go the way I plan, but it sure does help to think of it this way and know that there's a right way to do things sometimes. "Whoever obeys his commands will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him." Ecclesiastes 8:5-6. Sometimes you have to slow down, bring your racing thoughts to a halt and let God show you the way. Sometimes he even writes down a time and a place! Heck, X marks the spot!
I'd just like to close with this: "Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you Joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. so then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless." Ecclesiastes 11:9-10. Pretty good verse to put me in my place and put things in perspective. It's been an awesome 20 years of life so far. I'm excited to see what God has in storm for me in the future!
Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!