There are pretty good odds for me to confidently say that your. life. sucks. Now hang on, I do not mean your life is terrible, though it may be. I mean, your life … is a vacuum cleaner.
Our lives seem to be chock full of activities and stuff and family and work and school. You likely find your life full to the brim – yeah, life is a little tricky to find the time to fit everything in, but we make it work somehow. Our lives are so full that if asked if there was anything missing in our life, we would likely respond ‘nope – how could it be? It’s so full’.
In interviewing some people in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square this past Monday, my friend Steve Myers found most people to respond to the question of ‘Is there anything missing in your life?” with a simple, “Uh … no.” In their minds, and with what they would admit publicly, their life was full.
The problem is: full doesn’t mean fulfilled. But usually we are too busy to stop and realize that as Solomon said, most of what we do is ‘grasping for the wind’.
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done, and on all the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)
Solomon’s life was a vacuum cleaner – and he, like us, filled his life with things to have, places to go, work to be done. His life was sucking up everything it could – to seemingly fill a black hole inside his vacuum cleaner life. But he actually stopped to consider what was going on, and when he did, he realized it was meaningless.
There is an excellent chance that you are like so many others in the developed western world, that you find yourself B. U. S. Y. – busy, busy, busy. But you look around to your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your extended family – and they are busy too, but they make it work somehow. This puts pressure on all of us to find a way to make our own responsibilities and desires fit into our schedule.
Have you ever thought that maybe there was a reason we find ourselves so busy? You ever went on vacation, just to get back and realize your vacation was so busy that you needed a vacation from the vacation? If it is not vacations and trips that we look forward to, that make our busyness all worthwhile, than maybe it is retirement we look forward to. But those in retirement can attest to the fact that we are usually busier in retirement than when we were working.
It is not bad for us to be busy, but for most of us, we have never stopped to realize why we were so busy. The vacuum cleaner that is our life does not run on electricity. It gets it’s power from a powerful black hole inside the bag. The black hole’s hunger to fill itself is unquenchable, causing us to throw whatever we can to it to quiet its growl and the uncomfortableness it causes us. We can quiet it by covering the black hole – but it is shaped in such a way that only one thing can fill it: God.
If we ever had to admit that we do not have our life under control, how ashamed, vulnerable and weak would we feel? It’s a terribly scary thing – because then we would feel extremely judged by everyone else in our lives that seem to have life figured out and appear fulfilled.
But here is the secret – everyone else does not have it figured out. They are just as afraid and scared of admitting that their life is like running on ice. We put all this effort to get to the other side of the frozen pond, but no matter how fast we run, all we see is the same thing we saw yesterday. But it is comforting to at least be doing something. If we keep busy, we will not have to think about how we are not really making any progress.
I mean if this life is all we have, that there is nothing more to life than always being behind in doing the laundry and making those deadlines and feeding the kids, then fine. Keep chugging. But somewhere, deep inside of each of us humans, if we actually stop to listen to it, is a small still hope – a hope that yearns for something more.
We need to empty our vacuum cleaner bag, full of all the things we are busy about, and put God first into our vacuum cleaner life.
But then you come back and ask, ‘Wait a minute. Are you telling me that playing with my kids and providing for my family is wrong? Are you saying that God wants me to throw my family out the window?”
Another person interviewed in Fountain Square echoed the sentiments of several people I know: his fulfillment comes from playing with his kids. Another woman said meeting project deadlines were fulfilling.
If you take a moment to think about the story of Martha in the New Testament, it wasn’t that Martha was doing bad things, it was that she had her focus on the wrong part. She was filling her life with good things, serving those in her house, but she let that get in the way of the most important thing: God. (Luke 10:38-42)
We can make ourselves busy with things that are extremely good in God’s eyes – but if we do not base it with God as the center, then even though it feels like it makes us fulfilled, it is only a fleeting feeling. As Jesus would say, it’s not the good part.
Satan does not have to use bad things to get us off track. In fact, one of his best tricks is to just encourage us to put a good thing before the best thing. Tricky little devil, he is.
Operate your vacuum cleaner smarter than that. The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing. Simple to say … hard to do.
(From a preliminary draft of an upcoming Beyond Today episode)