The valley of meaningless things

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I hate garage sales. Yes, there are some things in my house that once were considered trash and that my wife and I deemed treasures. Yet I still contend that the difference between a garage sale and garbage is one six-foot table.

My wife has been slow to accept my disdain for hosting garage sales has knighted me "mover of the stuff." I move tables that hold the stuff. I move the stuff out to be sold. When the sale is over, I move whatever stuff didn't graduate to status of "treasure" somewhere else.

While performing my knightly duties for the most recent garage sale crusade, there was a toy that I moved out and moved back. That toy used to be the gift. Several Christmases ago I hunted high and low, went to store after store until I finally found the gift that my toddler had to have that year for Christmas. Now, there it is, sitting back in the garage. What was so hard to find then, no one wanted now.

Perhaps it was sentimentality or pure exhaustion, but I couldn't help but think of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon, the son of the king, tells his tales of discovering meaning. He starts the book of wisdom by saying "meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless." He must have started writing after having a garage sale.

These are not the most inspiring words. The first lines do not grab your attention. Yet this is what God spoke through the wisest king of all. In these 12 chapters Solomon moves from the facade of peaks from acquiring all things, pursuing without restraint all things, learning all there is to learn only to step into the valley of meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.

By the time you arrive at the end of chapter 12 there seems to be little hope. All of his experiences, acquisitions and learning come down to one thing, the only thing of lasting value. "Fear God and keep his commandments."

The Lord crafted Solomon's experiences, prompted him to expound on them, so perhaps we could avoid those feelings of meaninglessness.

That beloved toy is now just a thing. It serves as a simple reminder of the biblical truth that at the end of the day placing our value in the temporary leaves us meaningless. "Fear God and keep his commandments."

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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