by Katie Borden
I had the strangest encounter this past week with an in-home consultant. What I expected to be a quick twenty-minute meeting about new flooring options turned into a two-hour conversation with this no-longer-stranger, engaging together about some of her most profound questions about the meaning of life and receiving her laments about life’s deepest pains.
It was a divine appointment I definitely did not see coming (and for which I was frankly probably less-than-prepared). And yet, God created space where this woman and I could contemplate the mysteries of life together. This exploration of mystery and uncertainty is what the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes does exceptionally well. It’s something I appreciate about Ecclesiastes and the Psalms—in these texts, we are given language to express not only our joy and worship, but some of the more difficult emotions we experience. We are given ways to express frustration at injustices. We are given words to use to voice our sorrows. We are given patterns of thought for when we find ourselves deeply dissatisfied with the world around us.
This dissatisfaction was one of the points of conversation with my new friend. She asked me if I wished I had a spouse and kids (…which, by the way, was a incredibly deep question to ask right out the gate… just to be clear…), while she herself was wishing that she could have *more* independence from her family.
We do this, don’t we? (…not the “asking-super-personal-questions” part…) We are often deeply dissatisfied even when we have what looks like a fulfilled life. Maybe in high school, we were waiting for more freedom. Or wishing we had full-time jobs. Or wishing we had higher-paying full-time jobs. Or wishing we had a significant other. Or, once in that stable relationship, wishing for kids. Or wishing for another kid. Or wishing the kids would be more independent and grown already. Or wishing for a bigger house, or a nicer car, or more money with which to be generous, or…
I think this is yet another example of sin in our lives and world. Our very desires have been distorted into longing for something less than a life-giving relationship with the One who is Love and Life, and so we are left feeling defeated and deflated when we desire anything less than Him. None of that will ever fully satisfy. It will, apart from God, often feel “meaningless”.
Thank God for his wisdom, mercy, and love that draws us ever-closer to him by the grace of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. God is setting our desires aright again. The One who “knows what is good for a person in life” (v. 12) desires our highest good—the eternal kind of life with him. When the Christian community talks about repenting, this is what we mean: not spiritually torturing ourselves for all the bad things we did, but rather turning our hearts and lives once again to the place—to the Person—where we have life to the full in the Author of Life, thus bringing glory to his name.
Ask God to show you where your heart is gravitating as of late, and then ask him to orient your heart toward him. Thank him for his mercy, grace, and love!