Saturday, October 17, 2009

Have You Enjoyed Your Toilet Seat Today?

I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man - even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity.
Ecclesiastes 6:1-6a

I love to grow herbs. It makes me feel rich to have a pot of basil that has enough leaves on it to divvy up into a dozen bunches such as I would buy at the supermarket for $3 each. That makes that bush worth $36! Add rosemary, oregano and dill and I've got more than $100 sitting on my patio. Just as much as I like to grow them, I also like to share them. I had been in the good habit of snipping herbs on Sunday and taking them in plastic baggies in a basket to church, sitting them in the foyer with a sign that says "Free." That was a great pleasure to me and one I looked forward to all spring as my herbs were growing to full foliage. But then something happened that I can't fully explain and all of the sudden summer is over, the herbs are dying and I never shared them even once. I just now sat looking out my window at a second dill plant that seeded itself, noting how it's big enough to start snipping and I felt regret at not having shared my herbs at all this year. It is my greatest joy in growing herbs and I didn't get it experience it this year because I've been too… busy, I guess.

I have every expectation that next year will be different, more like years past, but what if it weren't? What if year after year, and not just with the herbs but with all my prized possessions, I had good intentions of enjoying them that life crowded out. It's like the person who lives on the ocean and never sets foot in the sand. What is the use of this? Indeed, this is the condition of futility that Solomon observes above, and it is more powerful than I might have imagined from my small experience with unshared herbs. Solomon says that if a person can't enjoy all the desires of his heart, things he has in his grasp already, but lacks wherewithal to enjoy them, it is such a desperate condition that that person would actually be better off never having been born at all. Wow. I contemplate lives that I think may have been better off not happening - like children in sex trade or slavery – but I don't think I've ever lumped a filthy rich person who has everything they could ever want in that category. I'll have to trust Solomon on this one though because he should know. The Bible says he was the richest man who ever lived (stand back Bill Gates!), and the wisest, and whereas I don't think he was talking about himself in this passage, if any human could know such a thing, he could.

What I find most interesting in this passage is that God is credited with both giving the man all the desires of his heart and keeping him from enjoying them. Why would God do such a thing? Justice? Couldn't that be achieved by just not letting him have all the desires of his heart, but rather just some, a fair amount? God has made everything for His own purpose, some to glorify Him, the wicked for a day of disaster and some miserable yet filthy rich dude as an example to the rest of us of why we shouldn't envy the person who has everything money can buy. Seems like there are worse things in life than to be filthy rich and unable to enjoy it, but no! There aren't! Solomon says live two, thousand-years lives this way if you could and you're still better off never having been born. Let that sink in. This is the worst kind of miserable. Can money really do this to a person?

I trust you are not this miserable, praise God, but here's a tough question: Are you enjoying the desires of your heart that God has given you? Take a moment to think about what some of those things are: a boat, a nice car, a yard with grass, a special ring, a plasma TV, the perfect coffee mug, a summer vacation? Are you enjoying these things, really enjoying them? Or are you taking them for granted? Now let's go a little more basic and think about things you might be taking for granted because you wouldn't even recognize them as being desires of your heart until you didn’t have them: a hot shower daily, a toilet to sit on (versus, say, a hole to squat over), vision (even if it has to be corrected), hearing (ditto), climate-controlled housing... When was the last time you enjoyed a hot shower? You may have had one this morning, but did you enjoy it? The miserable rich man surely had a hot shower daily too - it's not the having of the thing that matters, it's the enjoyment of it. When did you last enjoy your vision and hearing? When did they last give you real joy? When did you last consciously appreciate them?

You think I've made my point, but I haven't. The point is that life for a follower of Christ is supposed to be abundant and that means enjoyment. We can experience that abundance any day of the week at any moment by turning our attention to the desires of our heart that God has given us. Any given day, I can walk out on my patio and snip some herbs to take to a neighbor - my greatest herbal joy. So, what's stopping me?

Contemplate this: What is keeping me from fully enjoying the good things in my life right now?

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