Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Forest for the Trees

There comes a time in life where you expect to have finally arrived.  What that arrival looks like for you is wholly dependent upon the thing(s) that drive you.  Me, I wanted to have a career I cared about and a feeling of self-worth.  Before you click off and chose something else to read, hear me out on this.  I have long maintained my favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes; it still is.  I love that book for a myriad of reasons, but most of all because the author got it.  He just did.  Solomon was a great guy.  He had more wisdom than anyone else in all of history and yet still had issues.  I love the story of how he became the wisest person to ever be.  When he came into power, so-to-speak, the Lord asked him to name whatever it was that he wanted.  He could have the cattle on 1000 hills, he could be stronger than any man alive, he could, well, be anyone and anything.  Instead, he, in all his humbleness, simply asked for wisdom.  And it was in this request, he gained all other things.

But the problem with 'the things' is that they never filled him up.  They never quite got him to the place where he was completely and totally filled to the brim with happiness, contentment, and peace in life.  In fact, he quite vehemently stated all of it was "meaningless".  That all the toil and work and striving brought about nothing but more pain and strife and emptiness.  That each and every situation, desire, temptation, struggle, success in life was nothing new - it has all been seen and done and experienced before.  Sadly, the only thing new about any of it was the time frame in which it was occurring and the peoples in which it was happening to.  In some regard I find comfort in that, in others, I want to yell all the more loudly.

Where does all this fit into the "arriving"?  This morning while reading my Bible and doing my devotionals it dawned on me where I am in the timeline of my life.  I have had the opportunity in the recent past to work with some kids who have just entered the next phase of their lives.  These are kids who will be entering their first year of college in the fall and have their whole lives ahead of them.  These kids are equally cloaked in promise and ignorance. It has been a joy to listen to them share (when asked) what their dreams are and what they want to study.  It has been an even greater joy to listen to them express, with all their youthful wonder, what they want to be when they grow up and what impact they want to have on the world. I remember being that kid once.

As I have listened I have also encouraged them to stay strong and to not give up on school even when the temptation to work more or study less comes along.  I've tried to encourage them to stay focused on their goal, rather than the smaller wins that come in between because to lose sight of what they want is like missing the forest for the trees.  (They didn't understand that analogy, but it was apropos.)  While each of us starts life out with different driving forces and different factors that imprint our lives, we all have an opportunity to arrive.  Sometimes, it takes many years.  Sometimes, it happens straight away.  And sometimes, it doesn't happen on this side of eternity.

In any case, I am most certain, the meaning of it all is directly related to the perspective you give it. I didn't have the opportunity to begin college straight out of high school.  But I did have the opportunity to put myself through school and in doing so gained a greater appreciation for the education I paid for.  After receiving my Associates, I continued on for my Bachelors, and then most recently my Masters.  All of these taking a span of 12 years or so to complete.  While not the best timing in many cases, I think the life lessons gained along with the formal education were perfectly timed. I have hopes of returning for another degree, I don't know what degree or what subject matter just yet, but I have a great passion for learning.  I have an even greater passion for teaching.

So how does all of this fit?  Simply that life, while meaningless in bits (trees), has an ample opportunity to give you something magnificent to look at (forest) as a whole.  Isn't God so good?

-M



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