Here is a great punchline to an old preacher’s story. You may have heard it years ago.
A bus driver was scared FOR MONTHS when a particular passenger got on board ... a big dude who was typically decked out in dreads and Harley garb. This weekly rider consistently stepped up into the doorway with a booming third person exclamation of “Big John don’t pay!” Then he'd promptly pass the driver without paying and sit down. One day driver took a deep personal breath of fear and then instantly chose to spend EVEN MORE MONTHS "beefing up" so as to be ready if the guy might throw punches when he would finally have the guts to demand payment.
That day did arrive and the formerly intimidated driver was physically ready; he absolutely looked like he could take the guy on. Big John said his familiar line so the driver took a deep breath and stood up, insisting on payment from the man. However, he was in for a bit of ensuing embarrassment when a bewildered Big John very gently stepped back down while he explained apologetic and confused ... wait for iiiiiit ... "Oh I'm sorry, but ... Big John has a bus pass!?"
Situations, people, and their words are not always as they seem, and, although buffing up is also healthy, what is even healthier is that this driver then learned a valuable lesson. It is a lesson that Solomon shared when he advised when in the midst of life we must trust that God is in control of those things we don’t understand. And it requires humility and wisdom.
I remember hearing an “old camp song” when I was little, but as a teenager, I realised it was a country song by Mac Davis, “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” It was a funny, tongue-in-cheek song, but … well … you know “that person,” don’t you? That person who deep down thinks they are flawless? Well ... doesn’t everyone?
Wait ... is it YOU?
I kid. But, I speculate that on the off-chance we have those tempting moments to think we are “perfect” we could all glean from Solomon’s two simple tips for living with humility (and wisdom): RESPECT HUMAN AUTHORITY and RESPECT SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY.
Let’s talk about the first one.
1. ON RESPECTING HUMAN AUTHORITY:
Yeah. Yikes. It is sure hard to respect some human authority when you just feel "in your gut" that a choice made is wrong. It happens to teachers; it happens with bosses, aaaaaaaaand, of COURSE, it happens with children. When a teacher gives an assignment that you didn’t especially want to do, you did not say WHY or argue. You didn’t question it because … well, an assignment is an assignment! You don't refute the reason behind it because you assume instinctively that there was a bigger plan in the curriculum.
I talked to a principal the other day who said he didn’t agree with a school-wide decision made by his big boss, the county superintendent, but he decided to do it anyway because he trusted the person and the bigger picture.
Parents will relate to this one. There have been several challenges in the attempt to convince one of our boys to “just say yes sir or yes ma’am and do what you’re supposed to do whether you agree with it or not.” That’s HARD! We get it! We DO. But we don’t always have to explain why, do we? My husband is trying to practice that with our son, sometimes asking him to do things that he knows will solicit a WHY, but rewarding him somehow when he does it anyway so that in the future he will intuitively respect authority.
Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don’t worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You’re serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, “What are you doing?” Carrying out orders won’t hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately. Yes, there’s a right time and way for everything, even though, unfortunately, we miss it for the most part.
Now, here is a question for YOU. What does it feel like to submit to the authority of GOD because of the timing of a circumstance of nature … or death? It’s all about timing and wisdom. Solomon talks about THAT too ...
2. ON RESPECTING HEAVENLY AUTHORITY:
Humans often feel secure in our self-oriented life, doing whatever he or she desires to do with no worries about what God may think or do, something that is also true in government and parental discipline. One can slough off a statute if there are no consequences, right? Do YOU have any examples of being kinda lazy with something in life when there weren’t any immediate consequences? Any examples of your kids doing this? Surely not! *wink*
Regardless, as Solomon suggested, there IS nothing new under the sun, but as (traditionally) Jeremiah pointed out, your life is new every morning too. So, what’s the point? Just as you have trusted the wisdom of authority you do not fully understand, you can similarly trust divine guidance in an even more significant way.
“When I determined to load up on wisdom and examine everything taking place on earth, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, you’ll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you’re not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won’t get to the bottom of it.”
Soooo … life is short, and then you die, right? Depressed much, Solomon? Haha no (well, many times also yes!). But you hear what he is saying, right? “Seize the day.” CARPE DIEM.
THE 'DIEM' AIN'T GONNA 'CARPE' ITSELF!
Many remember the frightening-but-truthful speech posed by Mr Keating in Dead Poet’s Society after he had the class staring at a photo of old students. He said, “You see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilising daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, Lean in. Listen… Do you hear it? *whispers* Carpe. *whispers again* Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” Similarly, Saul Bellow’s Dr Tamkin explained his philosophy of living in the NOW by saying, “Nature only knows one thing, and that's the present. Present, present, eternal present, like a big, huge, giant wave-colossal, bright and beautiful, full of life and death, climbing into the sky, standing in the seas."
Okay, now I know that in my life I have positively concluded something of some importance: The more I try to work out and deeply ponder through various dilemmas or life puzzles, the more I ought to recognise that I am a humble PEON. So I’m just wondering … what about YOU? Do you think you have succeeded in Solomon’s advice to seize the day? Do you think you SHOULD? Can you do it, but do it wisely? (Is that even a thing?) Solomon had something to say about this too ...
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.
This song got me in the gut from the first moment I heard it. If you don't already know it (and you very possibly do), I think you'll love it too.
In conclusion, after reading what Solomon thought about all of these things, let’s list some things that we ABSOLUTELY know we need but are SO HARD TO DO. I’ll start … sometimes it is an excellent idea for me to remember that, well, Big John has a bus pass ... in MY case what this means is .... STOP TRYING TO FIGURE THIS LIFE OUT. What about you?
I now invite anyone reading to post one or more of your