Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
“What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:3-9 NIV
Growing up on a small family farm in Missouri, I had a pretty good childhood. It was calm, secure and I had plenty of fresh air and sunshine. I would have liked to have been able to see my friends more, especially in the summer, but such was life. It was predictable. Ultimately, that predictability was the biggest problem for me.
Not only did I grow up on a farm, I was part of the fifth generation (along the paternal line) to do so. The sun rose, the sun set, life went on and on. Though the faces changed with births and deaths, and there were cosmetic changes to the land, there was fundamentally “nothing new.” Somewhere in my 11th or 12th year of life I realized that truth, independent of the Bible, and fell into a profound and sustained despair.
Outwardly I don’t know how many signs of melancholy were apparent, and from this distance in time it’s impossible to say. The main symptom of my underlying problem was in my schoolwork. Rather, it was in my lack of academic progress. Where I’d been an average student before, suddenly I was getting Ds and Fs. No drugs or alcohol were involved and nothing else was going on. I just didn’t have a reason to live, because I suspected that nothing would ever change.
Then, a year before I was to graduate high school, I found purpose and hope. I’d been studying different religions and philosophies, anxious to discover any motivation that would pull me out of my funk. It had been going on for years at this point. Through the Bible, after long reflection and prayer, I identified with the reality of a God who can bring about true change.
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” – Romans 4:16-17 NIV
This is truly the God of hope…the God who raises the dead and creates ex nihilo. This is the God of the impossible, the God who brings change and hope.
Empowered and energized by this newfound hope, I broke with five generations of life on the farm and six generations (on my mother’s side) in the same church parish. Newness came into my life. I left the farm and found my way first to Brazil, and now work in New York. God has given me a beautiful wife, two great kids, a vibrant home church and a career in digital project management I never imagined. I have a theological degree and speak Portuguese. I’ve begun volunteering through the Central Jersey Chapter of HOPE worldwide and look forward to eventually engaging in youth-focused, asset-based community development work.
It hasn’t all been fun or easy. There were dark days and a long “wilderness” period, but God has been faithful. His truth has broken me free of bondage to sin and to an unchanging cycle of history. Knowing this God of hope, revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ as the fulfillment of the promises given to Israel and the fulfiller of Israel’s vocation as light to the nations, gives me hope.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23 NIV