A joyful melancholy
The end of a thing is better than its beginning.
As I’m writing, it’s late summer – the season for Niagara peaches, sweet corn and sun ripened tomatoes. Nature’s bounty flows from the generous hand of its Creator. Turning the calendar to August used to send a shiver of delight through my childish heart. After all, there were still weeks of summer vacation left, back-to-school sales fliers inspired dreams of a fresh start ahead and best of all – it was my birthday month!
These days August’s arrival prompts a more reflective mood. After 66 completed trips around the sun, I’ve noticed some predictable patterns to life. The lawns that glisten with heavy dew each morning and the sunsets that come just a little earlier at evening signal that autumn in all its glory is just over the horizon. Robins busily feed their last batch of little ones before they leave us for warmer places. Farmers have harvested the wheat and are now spreading manure over the fields. In our front yard the hydrangeas are in full bloom. Their splendid white blossoms will morph into a dusty shade of pink before September.
As you’re reading this it’s October. Time goes on. Seasons change. I can’t stop the relentless process. In the past, summer’s departure often ushered in profound melancholy for me. Then I discovered the antidote for that in a place others might find strange – the book of Ecclesiastes.
There are some sobering passages to say the least, like chapter 12 where the ageing body is poignantly compared to a crumbling house. I remember a Bible college professor saying the best we can do is “quietly resign ourselves” to the truth: Life is vanity – a chasing after the wind.
Let me challenge that mindset. I’d rather embrace reality than resign. There’s great comfort in realizing that I’m not crazy. Life actually is passing before me like a morning mist. It’s barely a breath in the grand scheme of things. And there is a grand scheme of things, a perfect plan that we aren’t privy to. We do, however, know the end from the beginning. That’s the key to “living life backward” as David Gibson titled his book on Ecclesiastes.
Focusing on my destination provides perspective for all of life’s sorrows as well as the joys. As someone who strives to “do” and struggles just to “be,” beginning each day with the ultimate end in mind reminds me not to cling too tightly to the here and now, or even to my own existence, while at the same time remembering my significance is found in the heart of my Maker.
So this year as I ponder yet another birthday, I’ll read through Ecclesiastes again. I’ll savour the motifs that emerge, the lessons concisely laid out to help me make sense of this sweet life I’m called into. Very little is in my control. (We can all be thankful for that!) I’ll eat my bread with joy and drink my wine with a merry heart and I won’t let the changing seasons cause me undue consternation.
Because honestly – the end of a thing is better than its beginning.