One of the most iconic land features of our driftless region are the gorgeous bluffs. I don’t know that any image could capture their majesty in its fullness, so here is a more close up version of the rock involved. They have been here for millions of years. Never touched by the massive glaciers that flattened the rest of the mid west. Each one etched with layers of time. Layer after layer, crevice on top of plateau. Over and over again the exposed beauty of the land underneath us tells the story of time. The rock tells the story of what has happened over its lifetime. Piece by piece. The rock tells us climate changes, temperature changes, animals of the area, on and on. Looking down the Mississippi River they are stacked up like books on a shelf all along the shore. It’s interesting and necessary for us to have a catalog of our aging area. The rock bares witness to the experience of everyone that has lived here before us.
In our day to day I see and hear so many of us devaluing the experience of aging. All the self help products to make our mothers look like they never went through the experience of birthing a live human. The endless supply of beauty products to cover up the fact that the average parent loses a month and half of sleep over the first year of a child’s life. The constant pressure for our men to look like they just came in from splitting wood for the winter despite the fact that they provide for their families with their minds at a desk all day. We equally discount the privilege it is to grow old with another person. For every person that reaches the elusive age of gray hair, wrinkles and a slower paced lifestyle, there are parents burying children that will never have the privilege to get there. For every aging couple flocking the snowbird communities of the south, there are couples ripped by divorce, who longed for that experience the day they got married. When in the company of other women, there always falls this chatter of dying our hair, despising swimwear, or not satisfied with the right shades to make us look the way we want.
I by no means have reached a ripe old age of any number, but when I stand in front of the mirror I do witness some silver highlights emerging. They seem to be showing up in greater numbers these days. This may change as I get older, but for now, when I see them staring back at me, I feel like I’ve earned them. This one is for the day my 3 year old jumped off the couch and broke his arm. This one is for stepping on a lego in the middle of the night on my way to feed a screaming infant. This one is for my oldest child’s first day of Kindergarten when I cried the whole walk home out of joy for his new adventure, and pride for his last 5 years. This one is for the 16 hours of labor with him that I was remembering on that walk. This one is for the day the adoption fell through the first time. This one is for the second time. This one for the third. I’ve earned these silver highlights. Right now, I don’t want to cover them up anymore than I want to cover up that big bluff along the river. They are a witness to my story the way those bluffs are a witness to the story of this area. I hope some day I’ll feel the same way about laugh lines, worn hands, and all the lumps and bumps.
~“Gray hair is the crown of glory.
It is gained by living a godly life.”
As our bodies remind us of our age, it brings about the idea that we have actually spent a decent amount of time on this earth. We are not babies anymore, or children, adolescents, or even young adults. We’ve made some big decisions in our life. We’ve experienced some things. We’ve endured some things. We’ve had an affect on our world, good or bad. Our decisions and experiences have meant something, taught us something.
It’s humbling to know that the excuse of ignorance is no longer an option. It’s intimidating to feel the weight of our significance. As we look back over the time we’ve been given it begs the question, ‘what have I done with it?’ And of whatever I’ve done with it, did any of it matter?
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes felt exactly the same way. When he began to feel his age he began the same evaluation we all do. The entire first few chapters can be summed up in the most frequent phrase used “Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind.” Wisdom, pleasure, work, play, political power, all meaningless. Everything we do, or don’t do. Everything we have or don’t have. Everything we hope for, and everything we left behind. If we are honest with ourselves we too come to the same conclusion Solomon did as well. If none of this can be carried into eternity, then what is the meaning of it anyways?
ECC 3:11 “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
We all have a yearning for something that isn’t here, and we work tirelessly for it. There’s more of something somewhere that nothing on this earth will satisfy. Tim Keller states that this can be used as a clue to the very existence of God. If we all have this deep yearning to matter, to be loved, to have a purpose and a reason, yet have not completely satisfied that yearning, it is a clue to exactly the conclusion Solomon came too. God has planted eternity in our hearts and we will not be satisfied until we are with him in eternity.
If we’ve established the fact that everything we strive for here is ultimately meaningless, now what? If nothing we do now will satisfy us, then why even try? But what of those that don’t know this truth? What of those people in our lives that don’t know what will actually satisfy that yearning in eternity? If the work we do on this earth is not for the Kingdom of God then why are we doing it? We know that no matter of wealth, pleasure, or wisdom will follow us into eternity. We know God is the only one that will satisfy our yearning hearts. That’s the way he made us. Will the people in our lives and in our care be there in eternity with us to enjoy it?
To be clear, I am not suggesting we all quit our jobs and become missionaries. We would not survive, and that would defeat the entire purpose. We are all missionaries where we are, in our own fields. Christ was a healer, as are all doctors and healthcare professionals. Christ was a teacher, as are all educators. Christ fought for justice, as do all components of our justice system. Christ served all people from the greatest to the least, as do all members of the service industry. Christ spent the first 15 years of his adult life in the trade industry of carpentry. As does each person perfecting their trade. We all have the opportunity to further the Kingdom of God in what we do. We may have a big calling, we may have a small one. We may encounter hundreds of people to witness to, we may be called to love a small few.
A short shout out to all the parents out there-
~Our greatest work for the Kingdom of God
may not be something we do,
but someone we raise.~ Anonymous
After all, every hero of faith had a mother and father that raised them to be that way, even Christ.
Whatever your calling, whatever your daily charge, whatever your to do list, let it all be done for the Kingdom of God.
Let our gray hairs, wrinkles, laugh lines, lumps and bumps be yet another witness to the glory in the work for God’s Kingdom. They tell our story. Let them tell it. Let’s treat and use our bodies proudly for what they are-vessels for the souls that will reach full satisfaction in eternity with the Lord. And let’s be sure we all have the opportunity to know that eternity in love is out there for all of us.
Consider the Word
Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2
Which of these do you find yourself striving in? Where do you spend your greatest energy?
What gains have you seen or experienced from these efforts?
Do you feel as though these efforts are justified in light of eternity?
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5 and Chapter 3:11, 3:22,
What joy is promised towards the end of this chapter! Consistently in this book Solomon pairs his despair over the meaningless of life with the ultimate joy there is to live it for the Lord. Yes, in the end, most of what we do will be meaningless, but what a joy it is to be here to experience it! What will you do today that is for eternity?
What of your day to day duties could be discarded to make room for Kingdom building? What can you add to your life to store your treasures up in heaven? More time in the Word, a few more encouraging notes or words for one another, some intentional soul building phrases for those you love, a few posts to witness to our social media world, a few extra minutes for the ones you serve to just listen. Kingdom work is a marathon. Step by step, piece by piece until the day we all bow our knee to the one true God. If he can build those bluffs over millions of years, he can build humanity to love him only. What will be your contribution today?