I’m participating in a monthly women’s group study through my church. Currently we’re reading and sharing our thoughts on Your Beautiful Purpose: Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You. So far the reading is great; it is what one would expect from an inspirational text written by a woman addressing other women about discovering God’s purpose for our lives. (I actually find it unfortunate, though, that the book is marketed and written specifically for women, because the truths and encouragements the author shares are equally applicable to men and their walks with the Lord. But, that is another journal entry altogether…)
In that study group’s last meeting we talked about our individual callings: what it was for each of us (or what we thought it was) and about the struggle to know if a goal/purpose/calling is
- instilled in us by God for us to work toward for His glory;
- set by our own selves for good reason(s) but without God’s ‘touch’ on it; or
- set by us for our own purposes, however good.
Sometimes those three things can get muddled; the lines defining them aren’t always as clear as we’d like them to be! We may sometimes think we’re doing #1, when it’s actually our pride using that as an excuse to do #3. Or maybe we think something really is God-ordained, but really it’s just us, either consciously or subconsciously, wanting to do something that will honor God but isn’t His ultimate purpose for our lives.
But these accomplishments, no matter their origin or reason, can easily become destinations we fail to reach.
Even more, they may turn sour, spoiling like fruit left unharvested, and change from being goals we once desired to becoming a discouragement dangling over our heads. They can turn into something we no longer try to reach, but instead try to avoid because the inherent disappointment is so great, the pain too sharp.
During this group discussion, I shared a thought that I’d written in the journal from which my Free the Elephants entry came from. The women encouraged me to publicly share that journal entry with you here.
Perhaps these shared entries will become a regular theme on this blog.
This time ’round, on the night of July 30 as I lay in bed, journal open and pen in hand, I was pondering on my husband’s birthday (the following day). This led me down a winding road of thoughts which led me to ponder my own birthday coming up quickly in October.
I’ll be 34. I am happily married, a pet parent of three furries, and my hubby and I enjoy (and angst over) a beautiful home in the country. We are headed into our second autumn at this property and I’m still left wondering some days when, or if, God will take it back from us and have us relocate elsewhere. In short: My blessings abound, but I still have anxiety.
Again: This content is edit-free. I have deleted and changed nothing. It’s just pure, train-of-thought writing, typed out just as it’s written (excessive semicolons and all). I hope you enjoy reading it and that it gives you something to think on as you go about your day.
And, again, the scripture pre-printed on the pages of my journal (which I provide here as quotes) came in handy and led me to a better understanding of how I felt (feel?) about getting older, my accomplishments (or lack thereof), and the focus of my private morning studies of late: the Book of Ecclesiastes.*
So the following rings true, too:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. — 2Timothy 3:16
Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday.
I’m not sure how he feels about it. If he feels accomplished at 34 years of age; if he feels, well, not.
We both turn 34 this year. My birthday is only two months away. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I feel accomplished in some areas; less so in others; not at all so in one or two.
But I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes. I’ve never read it before and, to be honest, so far it’s really quite depressing. The basic concept I’ve gathered is that all effort is in vain because we all return to dust when we die. No accomplishment means anything in the grand scheme of things. All is a waste of time and effort; our riches go to someone who has not worked for them and we are left to rot, to return to the earth from which we came.
Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall see God. — Matt 5:8
But — perspective, my friend! What a difference it makes. Even as I write I feel a change coming on, an alteration in angle, an adjustment of vantage point. Ecclesiastes is, on its surface, a rather morose read, what with all the negativity and lamenting. But it comes from the viewpoint of a man who knows much, who has gained great wisdom and therefore sees clearly the plight of all men (which differs depending on the chapter and verse).
And yet “blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” So diving beneath the surface we can further analyze: is the man who has gained much wisdom and experience “pure of heart”? I think not. The weight of the world is upon him, because he can see — with his practiced & experienced eyes — the troubles ahead where the simpleton cannot. For the simple man, “ignorance is bliss”; for the advanced thinker, knowledge is imprisonment.
But let us consider something outside the box: let us consider that there is a condition even beyond wisdom, beyond experience, that brings peace. Perhaps we can, for lack of a better word, call this condition “understanding”.
Now let us consider further the wise man’s plight: ‘everything is foolishness because we all die in the end.’ How sad! Now step beyond. If everything is foolishness; if all our work, in the grand scheme, is of little meaning; if our accomplishments are nigh more than bragging that dies with our last breath… Why ought I worry about it? The situation is the same for all men, so why should I lose sleep and bother my conscience over trifling details like if I am “accomplished” or not? Certainly we all have goals and nobody likes to fail to reach them — it is valid to feel a sense of disappointment in that — but to judge my existence, my LIFE, upon these accomplishments? That is more foolish than anything!
Then, realizing this and coming — no, rising — to a condition of understanding one can feel lighthearted again. If all is foolish, the pressure is off! The weight of the world is lifted! The responsibility to be and become “great” is removed and one is left to the simple joys again, the ones that are enjoyed by those of simple mind and “pure of heart”: the pleasure of a meal, the comfort of a companion, the slow fading of a sunset, the delicate whistlings of a songbird…
And, so, as we progress through life we move through stages: simpleness, (learning,) wisdom, understanding. Understanding follows wisdom. Wisdom does not provide joy, only angst (after all, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge offered no peace for dear Adam and Eve!). And a simple-minded existence leaves questions that beg answers. So when one has passed through a state of simpleness to wisdom, struggled through the wisdom and achieved understanding, what then?
Ah — the TRUE BLESSING! To live with understanding and simplicity, but simplicity by choice.
So, now, thinking forward to my 34th birthday — of the things I’ve learned, of things I will yet learn — I don’t bother wondering about my accomplishments. I don’t set out the scale and balance out (or try to) my failures with my achievements. I can say “It is all foolishness!”, laugh, and be joyful.
*It should be noted by those unfamiliar with Ecclesiastes, that it was written by King Solomon, claimed by the Bible to be the richest and wisest man ever to live. But, that is not to say he didn’t make mistakes (and lots of them)!