It’s so difficult not to feel nostalgic as a new football season dawns. Seeing the Ducks take the field for the first time each year has always been a reminder that a new school year is about to start. It could be my inner-nerd, but I’ve always been excited for a new school year. Meeting new people, taking new classes, and getting new school supplies always stirred a deep sense of joy in me. Sadly, though, I’m not in school this year.
I will always be a student, for sure. But I won’t always be enrolled in school; I definitely won’t this year. It’s so hard not to think back to years passed when I didn’t have a job, but wasn’t worried about paying rent or being able to buy groceries without wishing for those days again. I know it’s a part of growing up and becoming a self-sufficient adult, but honestly, it’s kind of a drag.
There’s a verse in John’s gospel where Jesus is telling Peter to feed His sheep, but He says it in an interesting way, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” (John 21:18, NIV). John says in the next verse that Jesus was referring to Peter’s death, but in a strange way, this verse about going places you don’t want to go is relatable.
Rent, bills, jobs, and various other responsibilities often have a way of determining how our lives are lived. Sure, there is still a lot of freedom in between doing all those things, but I’ve noticed in the past couple of weeks that my freedom is becoming smaller and smaller. Going from job to job, paycheck to paycheck, and obligation to obligation has taken a lot of time off my hands, leaving me with a few hours to do the things I’d like to do. But usually I’m so tired that I end up not doing much at all so that I can relax.
With as hopeless as Ecclesiastes seems to sound, there is actually quite a bit that has been very helpful; 5:19 in particular, “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart,” (NIV). Notice it isn’t wealth and possessions that make a man happy, but God “[enabling that man] to enjoy them [and accepting] his lot [being] happy in his work.”
It’s a gift from God.
This means, then, that joy doesn’t come from taking care of all our responsibilities, hanging out with friends, being able to do the things we want to do, but from God. If our hearts are wrapped up with God, then whatever we do ought to be done with delight because it’s an opportunity given to us by God; not an obligation given to us by man. If we live our lives out of our love for Him, then we’ll “seldom [reflect] on the days of [our lives], because God keeps [us] occupied with gladness of heart,” (Eccl. 5:20, NIV).
We live in a broken world and as long as that remains true, we’ll still have our sinful inclinations to want more than what we have, even when we have it all. But if there is ever a word to describe what the Christian life is all about, it’s “transformation.” Christ died so that we might be transformed into his image and likeness and thereby become “sons of the living God,” (Hos. 1:10, Rom. 9:26, ESV).
We are, as N.T. Wright says, a “people of the Resurrection”: We contain Life that was neither earned nor purchased, but rather given freely at the highest price. Living out this new Life, as I’m coming to realize, means embracing change because it’s a sign that God is here with me.