I was getting ready to drive home from the church in Goshen, NY where I had just finished leading an evening service. I started my car hoping it would warm up a little before my drive, and was in the process of saying my goodbyes. As I began to head out the door someone asked me when I’d be back next.
“Sometime in July”, I responded.
“July?!”, he said, obviously confused.
“Oh, uh, I mean January.”
And then I was disappointed. Because for a second, July seemed like a really good month to return. It would be warm. It would only be 8:30pm, and would still feel like early evening. I’d have either recently returned from, or shortly be going to, a vacation on a beach or a lake. July...
But it wasn’t July. It was January. And that meant that instead of being hugged by warm summer air as I walked out the door, I was punched in the face by winter chill. It was already dark. I’d get home, sleep, and wake up tomorrow and it would still be dark. And cold. And gross. We laughed when I made the mistake, but our laugh was colored by longing. “Sure, would be nice if it was July,” we thought.
There’s something about being in the dead of winter–even the phrase itself is ominous–that sucks the life out of us if we let it. Everything about the post-Christmas blues comes crashing in on us. What does one look forward to when they are in January? January feels like getting back to the grindstone. Paying off Christmas. Setting (immediately breaking?) resolutions.
That’s part of the reason why we’re going through the book of Ecclesiastes. The teacher in Ecclesiastes wants to help us think about what life is really like. What is the meaning of it all? And he doesn’t want to gloss over those moments that feel like the “valleys”, or feel like just going through the motions. He wants us to know that sometimes, life stinks for no apparent reason, and sometimes, we have to find the good in the bad. He also wants us to know that, when we feel like “January”, we still need to find a way to enjoy it.
In fact, it’s one of his main points and one we’ll consider this coming Sunday–hey, I’ve seen July, he says. And it’s not quite as exciting as you are hoping for. That can either be depressing, or it can be liberating, when we realize that it’s far better for us to live in the moment that exists rather than the one we fantasize about.
In the meantime, we can keep on hoping for July, as long as we don’t let it rob us of enjoying the moment’s that we have now–even if it is only January.