Like the snap of a finger, dad’s tinkering in the garage is like a stopped clock: screwdrivers left on the bench; the vise grip about one inch spread; grease rags left out; a new oil filter for the four-wheeler still waiting to be put on. All of this replaced with funeral flowers on the floor! Just like that – it all comes to a halt. This is what my last conversation was about with my dad. We talked about Ecclesiastes 7:1-4:
“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
I can’t remember everything that we talked about, but we did enjoy what we have always enjoyed with each other – talking about God’s Word and how it all points to Jesus Christ. As I reflect upon this portion of scripture and my last conversation with dad about this text, my thoughts are as follows:
- Dad fought hard to pass down a “good name”, a reputation that is more valuable than anything in his garage.
- Men, your tinkering in the garage will come to an abrupt end – but your reputation won’t. What you value most in this life is what you hand down to your children and grandchildren. Be sure that it’s Jesus.
- There is more to learn from attending a funeral than the birth of a baby.
- The man who lives to party hard, filling his days with excessive laughter, avoiding the truth that his days are numbered, is drunk with a fool’s heart.
- A glad heart is what God wants you to have. But gladness is the consequence of facing the horror of man’s rebellion that leads to death. Be honest with your desperate need for Christ, then gladness will come in the end.
- Dad and I talked about “significant insignificance.” That is, tinkering in the garage, preaching the gospel, planting a garden, raising children, making house repairs – is significant, it’s important. But not so important that the world will stop and God’s plans will be thwarted when you die. No, you and I are not so significant that all of life will come to an end upon our death – the universe does not revolve around us. But, this does not mean that your life is worthless – it is significant. So much so, that everything you do in this life will be brought into judgment (12:13-14). This balanced perspective upon life must become your pursuit.
- I end with this: the passage above is not hopeless or gloomy. Serious? Absolutely! But not depressive. It calls for a sober awareness that your life is meaningful and very brief. Here’s the proof that “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad” – my dad is exceedingly, eternally, and deliriously glad with his Savior at this very moment.
By God’s grace, I’m right behind you dad.