There are crimson roses in the front yard and glistening rainbows in the dishwashing bubbles. My nine year old wanted to hold hands most of the time we spent at the zoo today. A tower of multi-colored vegetables lends jewel tones to my counter, ruby strawberries topped gaily with green caps nestle in the fridge, and on our drive home tonight there were beams of light shooting down from the sky into the mountains that I'd swear you could climb straight to heaven.
Life is beautiful. But that's not all it is.
The truth is, I am grateful so many pieces of life are so beautiful especially because of all the parts of it that just ... aren't. Each one of us lives a kaleidoscope of color and light, darkness and shadow, and the crazy thing is that most moments are wildly layered concoctions of both.
The end of the school year found my family spinning, a crash unlike any I could have predicted or expected, leaving me desperate for answers and absolutely unsure we'd ever find any. Weeks later I'm no closer to pulling in all the loose pieces, and to be truly honest (is that a thing we can be, here?) there have been many days I'd have liked to stay in bed (and a few afternoons I did spend an hour or two of retreat with a pillow and puffy comforter.)
And here's what I know ... I'm not alone. It's a big world and it's all broken, which means others of you must be hurting, too. Faithful friends have listened and prayed for me, held my arms up, pointed out the beautiful pieces in the piles of shards. Might I step into that place for you, today, friend?
The writer of Ecclesiastes was said to be the wisest man who ever lived. After years of study and exploring many philosophies and ways of life, he said this:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”~ Ecc. 1:2 (NIV)
Well, then. That's helpful ... not! I'm so glad these words are in my Bible! The BIBLE, y'all. When you're down or things feel dark, when you feel like you want to hide in a pile of pillows or all the towels you've thrown in, you can know this: you're not the first one to feel that way. Solomon said it long before you cried out from your own tile floor, from behind the bathroom door, from the open window as you sped down a flat stretch of highway.
What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. ~ Ecc. 2:22-23
I don't know about you, but when the piles pile too high and start toppling over, I'm so tempted to believe that it's all been meaningless. The enemy slithers, whispers, shouts, "Your work has meant nothing. These situations are awful and will never change. This is hopeless and you have wasted your life."
He's a liar.
I'm grateful to live on the other side of the cross from Solomon.
Grateful to be one of the Sunday morning people, the ones who know darkness is part of the rhythm of life and seeds only grow after they've been shoved down, down, down, into dark dirt that has been cut open and tilled apart, the seed unable to breathe and then covered til there's nothing but seemingly endless dark between seed and sun.
We want life to be at least somewhat fair, don't we? Want things to add up, to make sense. We want all our effort to produce something and we want that production to happen NOW. When it doesn't work quite that way, we wobble. Solomon wrote the truth about the way things often occur instead ...
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.~ Ecc. 9:11
Time and chance.
And yet ...
There's an applesauce cake cooling on the counter, ready for tomorrow's first-week-of-summer breakfast. The sun will rise and new blossoms will open. Bubbles will glisten in the dishwater before the dirtied water runs down, down the pipes.
And we will begin again.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ecc. 3:1-8
It's a beautiful life, even though it doesn't always look that way.
Let's make a deal, shall we? You point out the mountain climbing light-ladders to me, and I'll point the breaking-through leaflets busting through dirt out to you. Let's look the ugliness in the face and declare "It's a beautiful life." It's a statement of defiance. Let's point to a ram caught in a thicket and an empty tomb and a Prince riding on a white horse to bring us home and let's declare that in the end, He will make all things new--
He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecc. 3:11
If it's not beautiful, it's not over. Hold on--dawn is coming.
~ Praying for you and watching for the sunrise,