Ecclesiastes 3:11 says
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Barnes Notes eloquently explains the verse: “God has placed in the inborn constitution of man the capability of conceiving of eternity, the struggle to apprehend the everlasting, the longing after an eternal life.”
If you notice in verse 11 two important things: we endlessly search for eternity, and the search for it outside of God will be futile.
I usually write about facts rather than emotions, and I write less about myself, but in this case I’d like to illustrate the Ecclesiastes verse by sharing something from my life. It is a true praise to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how He draws men to God. (John 6:44). Even though I am ten years post-salvation, I am still acutely aware of how I felt prior to the grace of Jesus descending on me. I remember distinctly how it felt to be searching, ever searching. I even chronicled the search.
I live for information. That is my unique quirk. I love it. I absorb it, connect it, sift it, and apply it. And as for making attempts to understand my own place in the world and my purpose, I chronicled everything I ever did. I obsessively chronicled. I jotted down notes in a calendar that had large squares. I kept scrapbooks with ticket stubs and restaurant napkins. I wrote down where I went and what I did.
Before I was saved, I thought, somehow, that if I chronicled enough information, that a pattern would emerge. I hoped that some previously undiscovered piece of information would drop into place and suddenly I’d understand the mystery, that the puzzle would be complete. What the ‘mystery’ was, I didn’t know. I was looking for understanding of a larger context, not knowledge for its own sake, but searching for the missing piece that would help me make sense of the world. Because the world most assuredly did not make sense.
I would actively think on these things, engage in meta-cognition as to why I was endlessly searching for information, knowledge, and purpose, and chronicle and make little books.
Look what I wrote in one of my little books in 2003 as I neared the moment of repentance at the cross. Mind you, I grew up outside of church and had zero church experience. My father is an atheist and my mother a bitter lapsed Catholic. They hate God. I was raised without any religious instruction and absent any Godly beauty at all. I was clueless as to the Christian terms like salvation and kingdom.
“The world is awesome in its complexity and contains all the customary codes of conduct, a myriad of occupations and vocations, behavioral nuances of every description, emotional obligations, and ethical standards. The world also contains a secret kingdom. It dwells within the common world, but is invisible to nearly all. Only some comprehend this kingdom.”
Now you tell me that He doesn’t set eternity in our hearts. My soul was longing for His kingdom and I knew it was there. I knew it. But where was it?
I had written that quote in a little booklet I’d made. The booklet was a parable of a girl’s journey toward the secret kingdom, which was a journey toward the cross, but I did not know that at the time. I pictured the journey in written form of a girl looking for something. I had written,
“So one day she gathered her belongings and put them into a handkerchief and swung it over her shoulder and went slowly toward the kingdom.”
I was right to picture the world as a desert. Absent Jesus, the thirst will never be slaked. I had written,
“She flew and flew. She saw the world. She did not know it, but she was looking for something. With all that flying, though, she was always thirsty. She drank a lot of juice. Sometimes she thought it was strange that as much as she drank she was already thirsty again. The juice was just not satisfying.”
On and on the insatiable need for knowledge went, the endless journeying. I wrote:
“Sometimes the girl would tremble in bewilderment. Everything was so complicated! Why was she always thirsty?… She studied all the maps on how to get into the kingdom. She thought about it very hard. Her thoughts taxed her little girl brain. She knew this was necessary. No matter what, she belonged in the kingdom.”
There was only one problem.
After a journey of twenty-four months and forty-two years and three days, she came near to the kingdom. She could feel it, she was almost there! She crossed the river and flew over the hedge…and hit her head! She fell down. She peeked at the hedge again and saw a huge pane of glass. She looked all the way up to the sky and the moon and the glass went all the way up, too.
This is all still me, intuitively seeking God. The Holy Spirit had drawn me sooo close. In retrospect, the clarity with which I see the Gospel laid out in what I thought was an afternoon’s art project to lass the time is stunning. All the while I had been attempting to get into the kingdom of my own efforts. I “studied maps.” But man-made philosophy won’t tell the seeker how to get on the narrow way. I flew and flew, traveling the world. All that did was alert me to the fact that there is a God, but brought me no closer to my own repentance. The “freedom” I thought I’d had was simply my own sins piling up, trapping me like a fly in a jar. I simply could not get there on my own efforts. This was where I ended the story:
She flew round and round and soon realized that though the while time she thought she was free, she was trapped in a jar. She looked up and there was no top on the jar, but it was a long way up. She tried three times, but she could not get out. She didn’t know what to do. So she curled up on the bottom of the jar and cried.
In the little booklet I’d made, though I ended the written part of the story with being trapped in a glass jar with no lid on it, I left a good many blank pages after that last scene. I knew there was more to come. The story would continue. I refused to believe that my story ended in despair, and make no mistake, I was in total despair.
But God wasn’t done with me. He brought me to the end of myself before I could realize that He and only He could save me from this terrible despair. In the jar, there was only me and despair. I had to face it. The despair was caused by my sin. Only at the end of myself would He give me entry into the Kingdom.
Getting back to Ecclesiastes.
“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” (Ecc 3:14).
GOD HAS DONE IT. All the information in the world would not save me. GOD HAS DONE IT so I cannot boast. He lifted me from my sins and set me into eternity, my heart finally matching with the secret reality I knew was there but could not get to on my own. Only IN eternity can I discover what God has designed: redemption glory through the Son Jesus.
I called out to Him and I was saved. And you know what? I stopped chronicling. God has done it! All the chronicles of everything from the beginning to the end is already in the finest chronicle of all: the Bible.
Salvation did come, thanks to His grace, not my works nor my efforts. His grace lifted me from the bondage of the glass jar, lifted me right out of my sins and I knew, KNEW, that nothing I could have ever done would have lifted me. As a matter of fact, the harder I tried, the lower I went. Only despair awaits even the most earnest and diligent seeker, until repentance comes. He did it.
You see, though we seek eternity, too many people want it on their own terms. Or in their own time. Or in their own way. That was me. Everything I did was futile until I understood what the Kingdom stood for: a righteousness that reflects the glory of the Son.
The Son is love, and love lifted me.