Wait for It
Learning is often painful. Some subjects are more painful than others. The year of 2016 has been the equivalent to a crash course on death at the hand of God. From coincidental readings to losing both friends and children, the Lord has seen fit to keep my thoughts humble on the subject. In writing Ecclesiastes, King Solomon touches on a number of things that are "vanity." Early on I am found nodding my head most emphatically — "as knowledge increases, grief increases" (Ecc 1:18). Still, I have found ironic solace in this often depressing book.
The subject of death is particularly painful since it reminds me of my sinful pride. Pride manifests itself in the desire to be remembered and deemed important. One of my greatest "fears" at this stage in my life is that my funeral service will be empty. How narcissistic is that? Some might say that is natural, but I believe it to be naturally sinful for reasons I will soon disclose. First, long before my time, Solomon pricked my sinful mind,
"Just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me." — Ecclesiastes 2:16-17
It would be an exaggeration for me to say "I hate life." Christ has called us to die that we might live. I get this intellectually. But knowledge often merely chips away at the heart. Lately, these verses remind me of a particular chilling portion of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Aaron Burr, alone at night following the wedding of Alexander Hamilton, sings to himself about the unfairness of life, love and death,
Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
The theological confusion of this chorus aside, we are living anyway, and I find myself seeking to make something of myself. But the echoes are ever present about this vanity — "For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun?" (Ecc 2:22). There it is all laid out. Man dies — "All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust." (Ecc 3:20). Some recognizing this truth decide this ends their lessons on death. Perhaps in this reality our "eat, drink, and be merry" has manifested itself in social media. Oh, how we attempt to increase our net worth through social media. Only recently I have begun to see the ancient wisdom in Solomon,
"Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others." - Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
It might be enough to ignore what people say about you. But it is not enough to merely wait for death eating and drinking — there is no Christian merriment in slothfulness. It is not enough to be convinced of death's certainty. All of this merely reveals the vanity of life in the face of no resurrection. But the Christian lives on a different plane. In this plane, life is vain except in death. In the death of Jesus Christ, only, does life take on its only meaning. And so with Solomon, we can say,
"When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity." - Ecclesiates 12:13
Who cares if my funeral is poorly attended? The throne room of Christ will not be. But those are the things unseen. That is the city still unreceived. I can wait for that.