Monday, March 21, 2011

Ecclesiastes and the Voice of Maturity

“A good name is better than precious ointment,

and the day of death, than the day of birth.”

~Ecclesiastes 7:1 (NRSV).

Terribly pessimistic or translucently realistic; the proverb above—along with the vast host of Ecclesiastes’ ancient maxims—is both confusing and depressing on first reading.

But not for the mature person aged in their years and amiably wearied of life.

This classic book of biblical wisdom means so much for it validates this inexplicable life, not for the ever-joyous soul, but for the one who struggles interminably, despite all the world’s successes.

Yes, that’s right, the world can be found a horrible place if we don’t understand some basic concepts about life.

Life – We Cannot Work It Out – So, Stop Trying

There is a colossal irony in the fact that well-schooled Christians, in theory, understand the nature of the disillusionment and bitter frustration and non-Christians do not. Certainly some of the latter are philosophical about life, and with their come-what-may attitudes they do survive the wiles of life. But they remain perplexed at a deeper level. Christians, however, believe God’s in control, even if at times it seems a shaky reality.

Christians are often stereotyped for having ‘answers’ to all the deeper questions. The paradox is, of all people, Christians should know better.

The mature person understands that much of life cannot be understood and they accept it. They’ve weathered the storms of life and have found understanding.

There is no connection between material abundance and fate—or continued blessing—in this life. Only recently I heard of another silver-spooned young man who had gone the wrong way and ended up in jail (for the third time).

Many people don’t know the flow of life toward blessing and cursing—that both are quite unpredictable. Even seemingly small actions have their consequences.

It can appear that there is little of a link between cause and effect. There’s always some tacit link, but it’s a generalisation at best, and this tests our hearts. We cannot rely on things always turning out, so we best do them with the finest of intentions anyway, prepared for things to turn pear-shaped.

The Voice of Maturity

Qoheleth, the teacher and writer of Ecclesiastes, had gone full circle in his understanding of life. From the place of wanting for nothing to disenchantment and despair, he’d known it all, and from these grounds he’d come to a well-rounded conclusion.

The voice of maturity takes in its humble stride many maddening things.

It takes what sends the normal person into spiritual convulsions and forms it into peace. Peace like this is beyond understanding and is only experienced; the outcome of a man or woman who’s endured the fiery refining furnace of the Lord, their God.

The voice of maturity is strangely quiet and subdued in contemplation—and compassionate to a fault.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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