Is it worth it to play by the rules? Do rule-breakers have more fun or find more obstacles?
What is too safe? What is too risky?
Emotion says leap while reason says stay. Which is right? Which is noble? Damned if I do and damned if I don’t?
We have a lot of rules at our new house for our dogs. No barking. No sleeping on the new couch or new blankets. They are corralled to one part of the house. At our old house, they had free reign. No couch, blanket or room was off limits. The entire house smelled like dog but they had reckless abandon. They were constantly filled with elation to just be. However, every crevice of that home smelled like dog. Every blanket, piece of furniture, rug, etc. was drenched in dog but something about that freedom made them alive. They knew we loved them and they could partake. They could sit with us for hours on the couch or abound in the backyard and bark at their hearts content. The dogs are different in our new house. They are careful, poised and somber. It’s as if they know they lost their liberty. Their demeanor is subdued. My furniture is lovely and my home smells right but their change in temperament is discouraging.
I read Ecclesiastes just now. Odd book. I read Eugene Peterson’s version. Compelling no doubt but confusing in how it relates to what we know today. In chapter 3 around verse 10 (I never know with The Message version) he says this, “I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most out of life. That’s it-eat, drink and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.”
The wisest King who ever lived says life is “smoke, spitting in the wind” so live it. Chapter 5 verse 20, “God deals joy out in the present, the now.”
Is Solomon saying to break the rules. No. He mocks fools and debauchery which contributes to the folly in this world. He does say that the wise have the same fate as the fool: a funeral celebrating a brief life just to be forgotten. Whether you follow the rules and play it safe or allow emotion to be your guide, you have the same fate. So why try? Why commit to anything? Why follow the rules or (worse) why live? Why choose to thrive?
Rolland and Heidi Baker are missionaries in Pemba, Mozambique. They are the light of a million suns in the deepest pangs of hell. They see the dead resurrected and food multiply. Diseases healed instantly and eyes open. They have experienced massive obstacles that have made them “despair even of life” similar to Paul in his ministry in Asia. He recalls all of this in his latest Iris Global newsletter. He shares something that Solomon did not know was imminent, the resurrection of Christ-deaths defeat. This passage below sheds light on the “smoke and the spit in the wind” analogy:
But there is a secret place, a hiding place, a lower place, a holy place
that exceeds our dreams. It is not found in anything external and
impersonal. It is not found simply in activity, sacrifice and
dedication. It is not found in goals, projects, productions and
progress. It is not found in finances and growth. It may be missed
entirely even when preaching, teaching, training and discipling. It may
be forgotten completely when evangelizing and praying for the sick. The
greatest and most powerful gifts don’t necessarily contain it. Even
ministry to the poor may become an impersonal effort that misses that
greatest and most intensely motivating creation of God, that supreme
display of His glory: relationship!
Love in Jesus, Rolland and Heidi
I think this is what my dogs were trying to say to me. I think this is what Solomon was echoing with intense transparency. Any rules that keep me from experiencing the one who ransomed me, the one who gave me joy for mourning is a life that will end in “smoke, spit in the wind.” Listening to “We Dance” by Bethel Church as I write. It’s chorus swells offering me the only command I am to follow: I will lock eyes with the one who has chosen me the one who has set my feet to dancing.
My dogs sit content, absorbed in peace on my new comforter. It will be covered in dog stink but their kisses, their presence are more valuable than their “dogness”. I love their sloppy kisses right in my face and the way they snuggle to see how close they can get to my petting. Jesus delights in me. He invites me into every place of His heart. He welcomes my “humanness”. My dirt shedding on his newness cleanses and I am absorbed by all of Him for all of me. I am meant to bask in the love of Christ. His love is my life. Knowing him more. Breathing Him in like I have never breathed until now is my one rule to follow. The rest is a dance with Him. We dance, abandoning reason AND emotion. Gifts at the altar. Set my feet to dancing, Jesus. You lead.