I thought I had the perfect set up at Thanksgiving. After being out of town 4 days per week all through November at my client’s location in Salem, Virginia, I was going to be home for 10 days in a row. And I only had to work the Monday to Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My Daughter Rachel was home working on student teaching. My Son Micah was there, and my darling Wife Regina. We’d be going over to my Sister-in-law’s new house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was looking forward to being with family and being home.
I thought, “If I focus hard on each person and each moment, I can make the time last longer. I can stretch it by savoring each conversation, each time I put my slippers on, each time I do something with a family member, each time I drive a familiar road around my house. I can walk my dog, sleep in my own bed, and take my wife for a coffee or lunch. We could even go see a movie together!”
I thought, “If I try really hard I can make the 10 days seem like 20 days, or 30 days. Maybe, just maybe, time will slow down if I pack more into it with family. Maybe I can even make it seem to stand still!” Huh?
Well that’s nuts. That’s really naïve. This all sounds really sentimental. And I sound pretty homesick, and that stretching time or making it stand still is ridiculous.
But isn’t that what Solomon struggles with and rails against most of the way through the book of Ecclesiastes? In chapter 9 Solomon writes about a common destiny for us all:
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.
This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope —even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
Time and chance happen to us all! Yes, that’s right: we are all bound by time. And much of what we do is striving after the wind and is meaningless.
Now at Christmas time I set my goals a little more realistically. I thought I can’t make the time last forever, but this time I have 17 days! I got in on Thursday, 12/19, and don’t fly out again until Monday, 1/6. Plus Rachel graduated from Purdue, started her first real job (she says her first “big girl job”), Zach (my eldest Son) got home from Dominica after his first year in med. school, and he got engaged! Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to pack in. Plus I got to go duck hunting twice: once with Zach, and once with my Nephew Jake Huff! It’s been a big ole time!
And I’ve done a lot of what Solomon says to do, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love . . .” I sat with Zach and his finance Emily and had a cigar with Zach and savored every moment of their company. I took my wife to lunch, just the two of us!
And although I didn’t make time stand still, I was able to savor time with family and friends. It was nice. Maybe a small victory.
Now to work on Solomon’s conclusion to the matter in Ecclesiastes 12,
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."