I've modeled much of my life after Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes for the pursuit of wisdom, and to figure out how and why things work. Solomon was one of the most renowned and prosperous kings in the ancient world because of his wisdom. So in the book of Ecclesiastes he outlined his exploration of all things that people do in life. It didn't matter if 'high' or 'low' class, rich or poor, wise or foolish, whatever was done under the sun he would also explore, but all the while retaining his wisdom... all for the sake of increasing wisdom.
I (Solomon), the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Throughout his exploration, the results of every pursuit in the experiment over and over and over is the same end - vanity (or nothingness).
Yeah, sounds like a really crappy bummer of a book eh? It certainly can seem that way upon first read but besides Solomon's exploration there's beautiful poetry, and the famous chapter 3 (To every thing there is a season...) with some excellent everyday advice and proverbs to boot and, of course, the conclusion. It's a great 45 minute read whether you're into the Bible or not.
So let's get back to vanity...
CONCLUSION A: EVERYTHING we do or produce under the sun is vanity.
This is one of those un-deniable truths that people like to mask with feelgood fads, myth or simple denial. Everything we do under the sun (being human) ends up being vanity. Diffusion will eventually turn whatever it is into dust and we will all eventually be forgotten. Bam. Wow. There it is.
That's ok though, because there's a lot more than what's under the sun.
Corinthians 15:50 - Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
So it made sense to me to just reject the vain and focus on the things that are true, purposeful, and have come to find out quite beautiful in simplicity. Once putting that into action, I became both wealthy and free in a way I never knew it could be. Not a lot of money, but a lot of wealth. I will never go back. Kind of like Peter Gibbons from the movie 'Office Space', except I pay my bills.
CONCLUSION B: you can't serve two masters
Matthew 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. In the original Greek the words hate, love, hold, and despise are all prefixed with a future tense or eventual-type modifier. Rephrased in more modern language, "...for eventually you'll end up hating or at the very least despising one while devoted to the other, and ineffective to both."
So my lesson in other words was/is, "choose one or the other. You can't have both if you're really serious about this. If you really believe, listen to and do what I'm saying. It takes action, words alone mean nothing." It's time to hand it over, in reality this time. No more fooling myself like most weight loss programs, this is the real deal and time is only going faster.
CONCLUSION C: talk is cheap, action is everything.
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
In my life God's kept His end of the bargain 100% of the time to this day and the only one whose never forsaken me. (I asked for all of this in my early 20's in a very fervent prayer asking for Him to do whatever needs to be done to lead me to and know Him, especially knowing my stubbornness and pride. - inspired from David's prayer in psalm 139)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Since it's kinda' stupid to choose something that most often fails in spite of academic branding over that which consistently worked/works, I said goodbye mammon. So much wasting of life painting the scaffolding instead of building the building. Done with that more than you know.
Prior to the back outage awakening, the years of Information Technology and software development within a new and wildly changing industry eventually changed me into someone I did not like and someone who didn't like anyone else because all contact received was 99.5% needing something from me and then afterwards crickets, and never ever ever being understood, understandably. You can't blame someone for avoiding a grouch after all and I was one indeed so the onus was mine. Avoiding or disliking everyone all the time is not what I am supposed to be doing, so that was a big problem in my spiritual development.
Eventually I got to the point of getting angry because I woke up. This obviously was not good, and I learned years ago that there is no partially backing out of this kind of work. It had to be all or none else all I would end up with is fewer but much harder escalated questions and still unavoidably have the responsibility of the system 24/7. So I spoke with our CEO to begin an 'exit plan' since there were so many things to set in order and ensure we had people to cover.
For years before that I was already setting up the workshop little by little and paying off all debt since that was always a retirement dream, and of course building things and making signs are my first love. I had planned doing exactly what I am right now except not for another 5 years or so later. But now it was time to return, and leave the other forever. During the exit plan time I was able to prepare everything having my house in order so when the time came and income was reduced by about 90% for awhile I would have plenty of time to get the workshop LLC set up and paperwork established and a good amount of float cash. I actually enjoy the challenge of seeing how much I can do without. It is amazing how much money I was able to save avoiding stupid stuff making a decent cushion.
Even with that, this was scary. Walking away from a stressful yet high paying steady job with a great company to an enjoyable yet far less funded one, at least for a few years. But you can't enjoy extra pay if you're completely nuts or dead, so.... that was my leap of faith and it made perfect sense. I had to, and soon. It's one of the best decisions I've made so far.
CONCLUSION D: He's got this
So what is His side of the bargain? Jesus laid it out pretty clearly.
Matthew 6 verse 25: (note: Take no thought =don't worry in modern speak)
25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.
Seek to understand God and His ways first and don't spend your life chasing temporal material things (aka: other gods) and if you do that He's got the rest to get you by. At the same time he also let us know it wasn't going to be easy or something shallow. It's much more than singing and waving hands in a mega-church, it's a way of life.
Mark 3:35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
Mt 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Obviously you don't hear or see a lot about this because personal responsibility and live faith doesn't sell well and has been replaced by institutionalized entitlement. The wide gate. No thanks.
CONCLUSION E: it's all about love.
Ok then so we're supposed to get off our butts, not worry about the transient crap that's constantly advertised, and then follow His commandments? What commandments?
Jesus answered the question in Matthew 22:
36 Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
in John 13:
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
1John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Need I go on? Either way, that sounds like a pretty darned worthwhile pursuit from this point forth whether spiritually, personally or professionally. It can be hard but I can't think of a better one that this flesh and blood existence can produce.
CONCLUSION F: the executive summary
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
The words 'is' and 'duty' are not in the original text (often they are italicized in the KJV). Maybe added in for population control or something coercive, but when removed and re-read 'this the whole of man' makes a lot more sense in context (aka: the entire purpose of being flesh and blood in the first place.) So to me, keeping his commandments IS the exercise of life and once fulfilled it's reviewed for readiness for what's next. And since the pursuit is love of God and each other, what a great set of commandments to follow! With love, mistakes from the past are just that. The past. They are simply a class that we goofed off in and paid the price in one form or another, or we were considered advanced in strength and got a really tough one to challenge us on multiple levels. If we learned the intended lesson we don't repeat it and move on to another trial. So on and so on. If you keep repeating the same mistake you should pray for some help. It will come, just listen. And don't get discouraged! God doesn't care what you were, he cares what you are. Much like his fruit-bearing plants, which when the fruit is harvested, the stem and root is recycled back to dust. What we become is the fruit, and what we were is obsolete so don't get hung up on mistakes made therein. God will forgive us for any of these things if we've truly learned and ask.
Psalms 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Notice it wasn't north to south? Why? Well, if you head north, you will eventually reach it. Same with south. Both measurable distances. However if going from east to west the distance is infinite because there is no east and west side of the earth and that distance is unmeasurable! That's how far away he will remove our failures (sin) from us.
Jeremiah 31: 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
So here's the 2 sentence executive summary of my remaining mission profile:
A: EVERYTHING we do or produce under the sun is vanity.
B: you can't serve two masters
C: talk is cheap, action is everything.
D: He's got this
E: it's all about love.
Life is a burdensome task and not worth the pain without love, but God is love. So keep the mind clear to focus and work diligently to follow Him, trusting his training since that which works best is often liked least.
So this theme of returning to my first love was twofold. First was professional, then spiritual. Second depending on the first.
Without returning to sign making from I.T. professionally, I'd be toast by now, even though the I.T. was within the sign industry. I can't even imagine handling half the job I did anymore without anxiety shutting me down. I let that keep me from people beyond reparation, and without that desire of people in your life what's the point? Money? That's just stupid. There would be no spiritual progress until the professional was resolved and so it was.
This last year has been wonderful recovering from much of the anxiety that I.T. life gave and also by being replaced with the joy of making signs and tactile things again. This peace has opened doors both expected and unexpected, but I'm happy now when waking up and enjoy discovering the lesson(s) for the day, walking with God. There's so much to learn and my mind opens a bit more each day. I've discovered a love for teaching/translating and mediation. I've gotten to start reconnecting with old friends and sign buddies from over 20 years ago and talk about things just for fun (compared to not leaving the house for 10 years). It's rejuvenating. I work in my own time zone now. I know the people in my own town now. A schedule is no longer comical toilet paper. No more spending 6-8 hours driving on another's schedule every week paying tolls and gas. I can now wait and call someone back the next day instead of ASAP and it's ok! No more having to work in the middle of the night because users have to be offline. And I can now go on vacation. Really go on vacation. Hell, even some coding concepts I'm trying to forget make more sense to me now than before. And mostly the anger... the anger is almost completely gone. Finally.
Each of these days are worth 100 of the old ones, so I've already lived multiple good lives and am blessed exceedingly. I wish everyone this good of fortune.
So that's it. That's the quick version of the journey from one side to the other and then back again. This was intended to be a therapeutic healing exercise to help close a chapter and open a new one in my mission. I've already noticed some positive changes since I wrote the first parts of this series. And so far I'm pleased to report that He's kept up his end of the bargain as usual. Now I just need to keep up mine.
And I'm looking forward to it.
Thanks for your indulgence :-)