Run Tails, Run!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Calvin & Hobbes & Qohelet

"I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:14"

(click on the comic to read it more clearly)

I don't know if Bill Watterson had Ecclesiastes in mind when he penned this particular comic, but it's what sprang into my mind when I read it. Ecclesiastes (a word I consistently forget how to spell) is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. I like it because it's an incredibly honest book, that deals with questions most people have at one point or another.

For example, what is the meaning of life? In my level six class, one of the conversation topics was just that. "What is the meaning of life?" My students were less than thrilled about the prospect of having to discuss this and instead asked "Teacher! Can we talk about cameras instead?"

We can't really avoid the question though. At one point, we all sit and ponder like the snowman in Watterson's strip. We all realize that death will one day grab us all, so what should we do in order to derive as much meaning from life as we can before the sun melts us?

Hopefully, not by pursuing material possessions, like Watterson sarcastically suggests via Calvin. Sure, we could all go out and buy big screen TV's, but somehow I doubt that can provide a meaningful existence for very long.

My astute and good looking readers may recall the blog entry from two months ago. If you don't, I'll provide an ultra condensed summary:

"ANGST. ANGST. Moses."

Basically, I was discouraged and unsure of my decision to stay in Korea an extended four months. Even though I felt God leading me to stay, I was still unsure and anxious.

I realize now that part of the reason I had become discouraged was because some of my priorities were not in order. I had allowed my personal goals and dreams to cloud my judgment, and even seeing clearly what was the right choice, I still wanted to follow what felt like a better choice at the time.

Since that time, I have come to be glad that I stayed. Sure, it hasn't always been easy here, but when I look at the students and the friends I've been able to help by being here, that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to had I left, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm glad that I didn't run home with my tail (Run Tails, run?)between my legs when things got a little hard. I'm thankful God gave me the clarity of mind to decide to stay regardless of what my feelings had to say.

And that brings us back to Ecclesiastes (thank you Mr. Firefox spellchecker). The author of Ecclesiastes is unknown. Tradition states that it was King Solomon, but that seems all but impossible given the linguistic makeup of the book. The author refers to himself only as "Qohelet", a Hebrew title meaning "Speaker."

Qohelet laments the emptiness living a life of worldly pleasure has left him. He observes that no matter how much a man works or acquires, in death that is meaningless. He makes many profound observations, about the stupidity of a life spent alone, about the need for balance in all things, and the injustice of watching the wicked prosper. Finally, he concludes by saying:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Qohelet realizes that the only way to find true meaning in a finite life is to serve an infinite God. We can't let anything get in the way of doing his will...not dreams, not friends. Not even family, as hard as that one is for me to swallow. Christ must go first. The satisfaction of knowing that you're doing His will is better than chasing my dreams any day.