“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
I abandoned my normal Lake Wylie weekend running route and hit the trails at McDowell Nature Preserve in Steele Creek. It has been a long time since I have run on the trails. I had forgotten how beautiful, peaceful and challenging they are to run.
The constant up and down, dodging roots, ducking limbs and even the occasional squirrel to give you a heart attack makes for an exciting run. As I was bounding down the trails and enjoying God’s amazing creation, the trail broke out of the woods for a second and I found myself running along the edge of one of Lake Wylie’s many coves. It was a beautiful sight, the sun was just coming up and there was mist rising from the cool water. I stopped to catch my breath and was captivated by the sight.
Snapping back to reality, I continued my run down the trail. My course took me out and back, and so I was looking forward to my return trip to catch another glimpse of the cove. I returned there about 20 minutes later, and it was gone. The sun was higher and the mist rising from the lake had dissipated. Now it looked like just another cove, still beautiful but not the same.
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As I was standing there disappointed I could not relive that moment again, I had a flashback to one of my Hebrew classes at seminary. I remembered the word in Hebrew for meaningless is the same as the word for vapor. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the word vapor is found more than 35 times in 12 chapters. The book is written by King Solomon, touted to be the wisest man ever to live. The book opens with declaring everything is meaningless or in Hebrew, vapor. He then lists all of the things that are vapor in this world: money, possessions, pleasures, wisdom, toil and so on.
As you read the book, it is easy to get discouraged and ask: what is the point of life at all? If everything is vapor, here now and gone in a moment’s notice, then what is the point of living at all?
It isn’t until the end of the book we learn there is something that isn’t vapor – a right relationship with God.
It reminds me of my one true purpose in life: to be devoted to God with every ounce of my being because everything else will one day vanish.
This perspective does two things. First, it keeps me from stressing about the stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run. Those things that right now seem so important and overwhelming, but from an eternal perspective are only vapor, here today and, thanks be to God, will be gone tomorrow.
The second thing is it teaches me is not to take a single moment for granted. It reminds me I’m called to love my neighbor as myself. Life is too short to hold grudges or not tell someone you love them.
I believe this is the kingdom perspective that Jesus calls us each to have to make our lives richer. I encourage you to think about life being vapor and live today accordingly.
The Rev. Jason Everson is pastor of Good Samaritan UMC in Lake Wylie. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.