Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind…
So Ecclesiastes tells us, that everything under the sun is devoid of lasting meaning. Pleasure? It wears out. Family? What was your great grandfather’s favorite song as a child? Children grow up, move away, and start lives of their own. Fame fades. Money wears away. Moth and rust destroy, thieves break in and steal, and when we’re gone we’re going to leave about as much footprint as the wind on the open American Prairie grass.
So, if that is the end of everything, what are we to do?
One of the options shows up a lot in Christian bookstores. Devotionals, from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for his Highest to its millions of imitators offer to show a hundred thousand ways to work harder, to try harder, to be more dedicated, more excited, more zealous, more informed, more aware… Wherever sort of works-righteousness you want to try, there is a self-help for your self-aggrandizement.
I don’t mean it to be harsh, but it doesn’t work. God is an absolute good, and we can never be absolutely good, never completely altruistic, never devoid of self-interest.
We are so innately selfish and evil that we are incapable of good on a cosmic scale, good relevant in comparison with the Almighty himself.
Hence our daily, continual, and ongoing need for and dependence on the grace Jesus Christ won for us at the cross. That and only that will ever redeem us from our sins, the only hope we ever have of any merit or righteousness before Christ.
That being said, if we are saved and loved by God by grace alone, attained by the faith God creates in us alone, which we may or may not reject…
Ecclesiastes also provides the answer:
Rejoice, O youngman, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
So, free from the burden of trying three million extra ways to do God’s will, to try and bring him glory with our work and futile efforts, what are we to do?
What we enjoy.
Part of that answer echoes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s opening point in Ethics, and the point I believe James makes in his epistle. Grace puts us beyond the law, and in fellowship with God. But, being in fellowship with God, the natural response and desire is what is pleasing to him.
The other part is, barring what God has proscribed for our protection and guidance, we are to enjoy life.
That is why I steal moments swinging my hands around in circles, envisioning mukgum, why I read whenever I can, drive countless hours to train with my friends, and revel in the multiverse of adventures that stories provide. I have shuffled my steps on Arakkis, read gravitic sensors on a Manticoran battle fleet, hunted Dragonballs, watched Arthur become Dux Brittanarium, and donned the glass helm on Agatsu.
I only get one life, and while I am a self-made monk I am no aesthetic. I also have a firm hope and faith that, it being no sin, God can vicariously enjoy the swinging, singing wooden sword as I forge a new fold into my life as a swordsman.
I come from a family with a history of crippling arthritis, so every dancing step that I can take is a gift from on high. I was born into a time when my crippled knee could be Frankensteined back together, and when I woke from surgery the doctor said I could never do martial arts again… and I can. I had just turned eight when someone poked at me with a sword for the first time, and I have loved swordplay ever since. Fencing, broadsword, Shim Soo Do, Hapkido, and now Haidong Gumdo… I never learn enough of the sword to satisfy me, and I fully expect to be fencing with angels in heaven. Not to practice for war, but because I absolutely love to spar, and my guardian angel could give you the list of the number of butt-kicking’s I have earned.
And if there isn’t swordplay in heaven, there will be something much better to replace it. I can’t wait to find out.