The other morning, whilst eating my breakfast, I was watching the morning news on the BBC.
The two presenters were interviewing an actor, who was advertising the latest edition of a book called ‘Dear Me’.
In the book, celebrities had been invited to write a letter to their 16 yr old selves – and this got me thinking! What would I write to my 16 yr old self? What would you write?
As I was pondering this, and preparing an evening service, I saw that one of the lectionary readings came from the book of Ecclesiastes, and in many ways it reminded me of what we might write to our 16 yr old selves.
At first sight, Ecclesiastes appears to be a very gloomy book – but when you read it, carefully, you find it’s a kind of review of what makes us happy. Faith in God helps us to accept the fact that life is short – that young people should enjoy life while whilst they’re young, and go on doing so all their lives….‘It is good to be able to enjoy the pleasant light of day. Be grateful for every year you live…… remember that you will be dead much longer’!
What makes the book appear so pessimistic is its repeated use of a word usually translated as ‘vanity’. ‘Vanity of vanities’ says the Preacher, ‘All is vanity.’
But this has nothing to do with what we’d normally associate the word with – being proud or vain. A better translation would be ‘a puff of wind’, or even ‘a short breath’.
One human life isn’t a long time, compared to the age of the earth. It last no longer than a puff of wind. So money doesn’t matter – you can’t take it with you when you die! Ecclesiastes is in fact, quite optimistic.
God gives everyone health and strength – it may not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Thank God for everything your life contains, and enjoy them whilst they last. Then you won’t be too worried by the fact that they can’t last for ever. At the end of your life, whenever it comes, you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve had a good innings, with lots to be grateful for.’
One of the things that the Bible warns us against is the deadly sickness of ‘affluenza’! It’s perhaps something that many ‘older folk’ could advise their ‘younger selves’ of!
Maybe something along these lines….
The danger with getting rich is that you begin to think that money’s all that matters. Like Scrooge, you miss the wonderful things that life can offer – the enjoyment of family and friends, the appreciation of art and music – because you trade them in for a little more money, and a few more possessions. If you waste long hours making money, you’ll never have time to create anything else. If you create something beautiful, it will last long after your body has perished and your money has been frittered away! So why not concentrate on the things that really matter… your children won’t thank you if you pass on to them your possessions, but never gave them the time to get to know you.’
It’s the shortness of life that gives it meaning. Just imagine if our lives never ended – they’d become one endless blur; there’d be no motivation to make our mark – nothing by which we could be remembered. There’d be no urgency about falling in love or bringing up a family. Birth and death, therefore, are the boundaries which give our lives meaning.
True treasure is life itself – possessions are merely the gift wrap. – More words of wisdom to tell our younger selves!
Yours in Christ,