OK. A quick test for the mathematicians among us…
Do you know how many minutes are in one year (365 days)?
And please, don’t use your smart phone to do the heavy lifting for you…
That seems like a lot of time, right? And still, what do we often say on New Year’s Eve or just before?
“Wow, this year passed by really fast!”
At the end of the year a lot of us make up the balance. What went well in 2018? What was a pleasant memory? What could have been better? What was a disaster?
It is often as if your life year passes through your mind one way or another. For some that film looks quite positive. For others not so much.
Now the magic of New Year is that in the blink of an eye, you can start all over again. I guess that’s why they call it Happy New Year! It’s a time for new beginnings, new opportunities. A time to turn the page, close a chapter, start something new, different, exciting…
But then it happens. You are perhaps one or two days in and the first setback happens. A phone call of a loved one going through a tough time. An unexpected illness. A financial event that is not good for your bank account, etc. You get the picture. All of a sudden, all the good resolutions, intentions and plans are being tested to see what you really want.
Actually, talking of New Year resolutions. Why do some people even make those? Statistics tell us that in Australia about 40% of the population intends to follow through on some sort of plan for change. What are the biggies? Shouldn’t be so hard…
Lose weight, spend less (or wiser) money, take on a hobby like sports or a foreign language.
Yet, only 8% actually follows through and makes it till the finish line. Many of us know that it’s hard to lose those 5 extra kilos or finally have the resolve to learn that language or stop with that bad habit…It might very well be the reason why many don’t have New Year Resolutions. Why bother? Or perhaps they have simply made peace with life as it is. There’s no point in getting all anxious about something you can’t really change. Even the start of a New Year doesn’t change that!
And yet, deep down we know, by default, that there are things that we do that we would rather not do, not because they are intrinsically bad, but rather because we have been caught up too much in them. Whether it’s social media, a hobby, work or anything else. All of that is good potentially. The problem starts when any of these things start to matter more, yet don’t matter most in life.
There is this little voice that somehow tells us: “Hey my friend, do you really need to make those long hours all the time being away from your children?” or “Are you sure you need to do this now?” It’s this voice that evaluates what we are currently doing in the light of the bigger picture called ‘Purpose’. Purpose. Destiny. Created Value. It’s what we live for. It gives us direction. Even the most cynical person would have to admit that we are here on this blue planet for some reason.
Sometimes you see a book with a difficult title and you think: “Well, I better skip that one. The title isn’t very promising.” If there is one book in the Bible that probably fits that category it’s “Ecclesiastes”.
Ecclesiastes is believed to be written by the old king Salomon, the once wise and pious king of Israel who at the end of his life reflects upon his life and upon life in general. He sees his good deeds, but also remembers the rather dark chapters in his life. Reading Ecclesiastes is not so easy. When read out of context, one can easily come to the conclusion that there isn’t much purpose in life. What is the point of living a godly life? It’s all vanity. It’s all useless.
Then, in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes the writer reflects upon the notion of TIME.
It says in 3:1
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
We say it even in daily English: “there is a time for everything…”
What follows in verses 2-8 is a myriad of activities or things that humans can do. It shows the multitude of tasks and things that we do as people. A time to live. A time to die. A time to weep. And a time to laugh. One way or another we can all relate to that.
As human beings, we all have this capacity to understand time. We look back, we recall memories, whether they were from 2018 or perhaps from other times, 10, 20, 30 or more years ago. We can do that. We remember the great parties, births, weddings, celebrations, victories, graduations etc. But we also remember the deaths, losses, struggles, frustrations and pains. Life is like that…
After summing up a list of 14 pairs of activities that we can do as humans, the writer of Ecclesiastes continues his argument about the purpose of time. What is the point of doing all of this? Why do we labour and are we so occupied with so much stuff? It is not that the activities are wrong or even sinful. That is not what is at stake here. What is at stake is the purpose behind life itself as it is expressed in time.
You see, we all, whether we are very vocal about it or not, want to know that in the greater scheme of things, our lives have meaning or purpose. Today, many people find it hard to believe that there really is a greater purpose worth living for. In fact, the purposelessness is so entrenched in many people’s minds. Taking God out of the equation, what is the purpose of life? Why should we get excited about 2019? Isn’t it just another year? Yes, it will have nice days. But it surely will have black days too…right?
So, what do we make of the good and bad days in life? How do they play their part in the bigger picture called ‘eternity’? In my next blog I’ll unpack this more…stay tuned!