The first week of June has always, for me, been imbued with a sense of anticipation. Early June signals the end of the school year, the beginning of glorious summer days: vacation, cookouts, watermelon, and fireflies. For our family, it often means tearful goodbyes as we leave our current assignment, and the beginning of new adventures and friendships as we transition to the next. Most importantly, the beginning of June marks the arrival of my birthday! This year, since we are in Hawaii, we celebrated with a trip to my favorite beach. The amazingly beautiful turquoise water, the gentle breeze, the velvety sand, and the bright sunshine made for a perfect morning. I was further spoiled with a shopping trip and a made-from-scratch triple chocolate cake. With my husband and all three children surrounding me with love, it was a wonderful birthday.
Even as I reveled in the festivities, though, I couldn’t help but think about the downside to these annual celebrations. While each birthday marks another year of enjoying family, friends, and the amazing beauty around me on this earth, it also highlights the less-gratifying aspects of growing older. Each year, my waistline expands, my eyesight worsens, exercise becomes more difficult, and my nights grow shorter. My kids grow up and begin to move away. With the repeating seasons come storms, droughts and floods; along with celebrations of life come, inevitably, the deaths of those I love.
King Solomon, after years of observation and experimentation, recognized this depressing aspect of life (Ecc. 2:1-14). He saw that the cyclic processes of nature and human life repeat endlessly, affecting all men equally, and that man cannot break out of that cycle or hope to control it (Ecc. 1:1-11; 2:14-23). Solomon ultimately concluded that it is God who controls the world and life as we know it, and the best thing men can do is to “be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil… (Ecc. 3:12-13; see also Ecc. 5:18-19, 8:15, 9:7-9).” Solomon’s final word of advice is for man to “fear God and keep his commandments (Ecc. 12:13),” and to maintain this posture from the time of youth to the time that “…the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecc. 12:7).”
While Solomon’s summation of life may seem bleak at first glance, his statement about the dust returning to the earth from whence it came, and man’s spirit returning to God, ties to 1 Corinthians 15:47-49: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” This statement of Paul’s helps me understand that, while as a human I am intrinsically tied to sinful Adam, and that my current physical body will indeed pass away, those of us who know Christ are also made into His image (see also Rom. 5:12-21, Rom. 8:29). Because of this, we inherit the beautiful promise of 1 Corinthians 15:51-55:
…We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on this imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’
Not only will my spirit dwell with Christ forever; this aging body of mine will be remade and raised to live with Him in a creation also freed from the bondage of sin (Rom. 8:19-23). With this exciting news in mind, I think I will go right ahead anticipating the month of June and enjoying my birthday to its fullest!
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:57