Yesterday evening – as per usual – I met with my Wednesday men’s group for prayer, conversation, Bible study, and encouragement. We’re working through Ecclesiastes and did a bit of a deep dive into Chapter Four.
Here’s a sample:
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
5 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: – Ecclesiastes 4:4-7
One of my “trade secrets” as a facilitator – especially when discussion grinds to a halt – is to interject a question, an observation, or a declarative statement that’s calculated to be off target enough, or stupid enough, or just plain wrong enough to provoke if not outrage at least some push-back to get the ball rolling again.
But then, of course, it’s not that difficult to miss the mark when talking about a book as challenging as Ecclesiastes. At the same time, some of the most insightful ideas shared in our group tend to be disarmingly simple.
Two recurring themes in our study thus far have been life is meaningless and chasing after the wind. “But life is only meaningless when the frame of reference is ‘under the sun,'” one man astutely pointed out. “Once we begin to live as children of God, living as residents of God’s Kingdom, then we are anchored in something true.”
As for chasing after the wind, that’s what it’s like to attempt to find meaning outside of our Creator.
Smart Enough to Recognize Mystery
“Sometimes,” another one of my friends said (and I’m paraphrasing), “when I’m smart enough I stop trying to figure everything out and just let go.”
He wasn’t talking about intellectually jumping ship so much as bringing to bear his impressive reasoning power, wisdom, and judgment to the extent that he can begin to understand eternal truth as oh-so-much more enormous and far-reaching and multi-faceted than he can possibly wrap his head around.
Instead of chasing after the wind (like a guy on a bicycle attempting to catch a finely tuned Ferrari) he makes the choice to stand on the hillside, arms outstretched, feeling the wind, leaning into it, allowing it to wash over him.
And believe me this particular friend has amazing intellectual capacity, with Ph.D.’s and inventions, and probably diplomas in Thinkology too. But it is his winsome faith, and his clear understanding that his desire for God is rooted in the reality of a Creator, that keeps his pursuit of both knowledge and revelation so well balanced.
That is pretty much where we left our conversation. We live in this liminal plane of understanding where one hand is holding tight to the beauty of science and discovery and the wisdom of life “under the sun,” while we stand on the threshold of eternity, the other hand reaching in, and we grasp for God.
We stand in this liminal plane, on the threshold of eternity, and we grasp for God.
Good reading ahead, friends. Walk with us on this journey, and watch this space for more.
Peace, and more peace – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.