Originally posted on bigbible.org.uk in Sept 2014
‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘I’m going all Ecclesiastes on you.’
Just one of the phrases I use when I’m struggling to find meaning in life – or some part of life. When I start staring at existence and poking at it dubiously. When I feel frozen by the fact that I am just me – teeny tiny me – in a world full of others. And that world, in comparison to the universe?
Gah. It makes me glare at my Weetabix and sigh.
For those of you who don’t identify with this – I envy you! For those who do – ahhh, a kindred spirit. What a relief.
The writer of the Ecclesiastes likes to think. To poke and prod at existence. He suggests one way might be better than another, and then throws up his hands again. Meaningless!
There is a lot of life we could call meaningless. A lot of pursuits that have no apparent purpose, no benefit. Yet we chase after them. Oddly, I think we do this the most when we are desperate for meaning…and the sense of meaninglessness can be tempered by distraction.
I admire the writer of Ecclesiastes.
He puts his mind to the task of thinking things through, and drawing his own conclusions (however ‘meaningless’ they may be). I think I’d do better if I let myself ‘go all Ecclesiastes’ more often and get it out in the open. Playing an addictive Facebook game only candy-coats things for a while. (Or candy crushes. I have a self-imposed ban placed on that one.)
We all have ways of distracting ourselves from how we really feel, scurrying away from the thoughts in our minds. In a digital age even more distractions are open to us. How do I cover up my fears and my anxieties? How do I gloss over my moments of depression (and yes I have quite a few of those)? Do I dare confront them, to confess this is how I feel, rather than avoid it?
Yes. I admire Mr or Ms Ecclesiastes. (Or Qoholeth, if you want the Hebrew version.)
I want to confess: often I search for meaning, and can’t find it.
I have meaningful moments, shafts of light, and these are glorious.
But I need that search, even when it’s difficult. Even when my conclusions are unsatisfactory.
In a cluttered world, I need to sift through my disparate thoughts, to be daring enough to think, to feel. And in a digital age, I need to embrace honesty, not distraction. Even if sometimes I’m misunderstood, or judged, or considered somewhat…lacking.
In my lack I find something. I come back to God. Not in a sickly-sweet-platitudinous kind of way, but in a rough-edged way. The thoughts we read in Ecclesiastes are peppered with mentions of God.
Amid the meaninglessness, the meaningful One walks.
Each day, amid my ever-varied ‘moments’, I hope to catch a glimpse of that One, however blurred my vision, however forgetful my heart, however distracted my mind.
God, teach me to be honest.
With myself, with others.
Whatever I’m feeling.