“I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. . . .I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
We had gone back as we sometimes do to pay our respects at the old family cemetery plot where our parents, grandparents, and other relatives and ancestors have been laid to rest over the years. It was just my brother Richard and me that particular day. We were mostly chatting about pleasant memories as we roamed among the various grave markers when Richard suddenly stopped, looked around and made a remark I’ll never forget. Some in our family, he observed pointing to certain names, have simply vanished as if they had never existed leaving no meaningful legacy of any kind, while others, pointing toward other names, have left indelible footprints that continue to influence our lives as well as the generations beyond our own. Why the difference? Those who had simply vanished, we concluded, had spent their lives chasing after the wind, absorbed in themselves and their own worldly desires. Those who had left the indelible footprints, on the other hand, had a mission and purpose beyond themselves. That was the difference.
King Solomon, purportedly the wisest man who ever lived and notably the richest and most powerful person of his day, reported the same conclusion some three thousand years ago in a profound essay known as the Book of Ecclesiastes. But Solomon didn’t learn this by simply observing others; rather it was the result of his own self-reflection, for he was a man of tremendous knowledge, unheard of achievements, and enormous wealth. We would say “he had it all”, for he had tried, tested, and tasted almost everything the world had to offer. Yet, in spite of his great accomplishments and worldly experiences “all of them are meaningless,” he concluded, “a chasing after the wind” – that is, unless we make the right choice, as he points out toward the end of his essay. Are we in it for ourselves, or are we here on assignment from God? One is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. But the other leaves an indelible footprint influencing generations to come.
My brother’s observation that day has haunted me ever since with one challenging question, “What choice will I make today?” . . . . . What choice will you make?