“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” Ecclesiastes 1:1
How odd for Solomon to begin his discussion regarding God and wisdom with a statement like that. I have heard that the word that is translated as “meaningless” can also be translated as “vapor”… which kind of makes sense. A king such as Solomon could have everything he wanted, more than anything I can ever imagine, yet he yearned for wisdom. He wanted meaning. He wanted to know what made his life worth living. Solomon tried to prove that his wisdom, which was granted to him by God, was everything — wise investments in farming (reservoirs for his orchards), architecture, life itself. Yet, he says that all is meaningless, is vapor. He knew.
We all know that. We have witnessed it, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of celebrities. While the thought of winning the lottery, becoming rich and famous, sounds so appealing, we know what a curse it can be.
So what gives life meaning? What is your experience? I know what mine is.
That may seem odd coming from a guy who is fairly recently divorced. Family is not exactly the boon of many guys who have chosen to leave and divorce. Yet, more often than not, the separation from children gives more value to what we had. We value the relationship with our kids even more. We wish there could be more. We remember what it was like to invest in our children as they grew up, give them our time and resources and whatever it was we could give. Once they are away from us, probably before, we realize what meaning they give to our lives. I know that I remember how much sacrifice and time I gave to my children, to my family, over the years and I realize how important they are to me. It is my children who give me meaning, especially as they become adults and prove what may or may not have been invested in them.
My children love their mother. I both love and hate that. Even now, I see them talk about her as their best friend and influence, wonder why they don’t remember what I did for them. It is tough. Fathers do what they can — coach, provide, be there as much as they can, offer whatever they have as wisdom whenever they get the chance, do the best they can to be a role model. I know I did. What I also did was let their mother be the best mother she could be, watched her sink every bit of her into a relationship with our children (often at the expense of her relationship with me) while I survived a job and other responsibilities.. all of which is supposed to provide meaning. In the end, they will remember that I was there, but not respect me in the same way as they do their mother.
Where is the meaning in that? I have two pretty terrific children who are shaping up to be even more terrific adults.
For me, it is the people who touch my life that give me meaning. Oddly, yet not really all that odd, I think I have met through blogging. That is a lot of people, people who have become real and true friends. There are friends who I have met through cycling, a lot over the years, friends who see me for my skills (some years outstanding, some years pedestrian, some years lacking) and also for my willingness to share our lives. That holds true for friends I know through church, through work, as neighbors. It is those friendships that give me meaning.
This weekend is a good example of that. It should have been a bit sad, a year long dating relationship ended by my choice, but in reality God has provided a quick healing through people who I know — time spent together Friday and Saturday evening with my friends Jim and John, cycling Saturday morning with my friends Greg and Ernesto, a wonderful time worshipping with a friend (and her husband) that I have know since high school, a wonderful new bicycle provided to me by another friend (and a bicycle that has already opened me up to new and beautiful adventure).
A few pictures from this weekend —