by Brian Daniel
“That little bit of sadness in the mornings you spoke of? I think I know what that is. Perhaps you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” -Elijah in Unbreakable
Several years ago, when my daughter was a club swimmer, I had a conversation with one of the older swimmers, one who was on the verge of graduation, and considering her college options. Those of you who are fathers of swimmers might understand the enormous amount of time spent in the bleachers at swim meets and practices. A man can only read a book or scroll through his phone so many bleacher-hours before he finds something — anything — to talk about. So there I was, sitting with Maddie, and in the manner of conversation, asked about her plans for the future.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’ll go to college and get my degree.”
“Then what?” I asked, interested because this teammate of my daughters is really sharp and comes from a great family.
“Get married and be a homeschool mother,” was the reply.
As I processed her answer, at the time, it seemed like a wonderful vision for life. I mean, how many people absolutely know what they’re going to do? And I had no doubt Maddie was going to make whatever she decided to happen, happen. As I thought about it more, however, I began to play it out. So her children become homeschool parents and those children become homeschool parents and so on. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, not about Maddie in particular, but where does this end and to what end?
My intent here is not to shine a negative light, but to ask the question – do we know why we are doing what we are doing? Do we ever stop and ask, “What is my ultimate goal here?” And, if we did, would we be able to answer such a demanding question? What if we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing with our time, resources, relationships, and any other asset at our disposal? What if, instead of living intentionally, we are just going through the motions toward some nebulous and distant objective.
Solomon opens Ecclesiastes by telling us he has nothing good to tell us. When he references “vanities” in Eccl 1:2-3, the word literally translates as “meaningless.” After Solomon embarked on a search to find himself through the pursuit of pleasure, wisdom, and work—and it all came up short, he is able to say— all is meaningless. Ultimately these pursuits are empty, void, without meaning, purpose, or significance — all plausible substitutes for “vanities.” And even though God has put us in this universe with a finite understanding, He also did something else. According to Eccl 3:10-11 God put “eternity in our hearts.”
According to Dr. Tony Evans in No More Excuses, this means that “God has put within each one of us a sense of the eternal, a yearning for the things that are beyond space and time, things such as ultimate purpose and meaning.”
Essentially, what is being asked of us is that we look beyond our regular motions and machinations and into eternity for our goals, purpose, and objectives. This does not mean that we ignore our responsibilities or flee our routines. But it does mean that we look beyond these aspects for our purpose and identity. In short, we are more than what we have become.
Who are you? That’s not a question to be taken lightly. Matters of identity are among the most weighty with which we can wrestle. How we navigate this question across seasons of life will determine a lot about how we go about our days, months, and years. Any worthwhile examination must begin with the One who created us and the One who is allowed to define us. Eccl 12:13 reveals, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Our pursuits must begin and end with God. As Paul exhorted, “I come to you knowing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:12).
You were created for more. The movie Unbreakable is about a man who doesn’t realize he’s a superhero but instead goes about his day-to-day life never realizing the power and strength he has within him and how it can be deployed redemptively. The little bit of sadness we might feel, even if just every now and then, might be the result of our decision for the mundane instead of a dynamic life on mission with God. “Fear God and keep His commandments” represents only a first step or, if you find yourself stuck the next step.
To extend this examination of how to counter a life of just going through the motions, check out the No More Excuses Bible Study, the most recent release from LifeWay Men. For more about the complete No More Excuses experience, visit lifeway.com/nomoreexcuses.