My son’s friends are all starting to sport mullet haircuts, and my daughter thinks low-rise jeans are the coolest things. Are you cringing along with me? What is happening with fashion lately, and why does it feel like we’re entering the twilight zone?
We are told these fashion styles are new and exciting, but those of us who have been around for more than 30 years know these trends have been around before.
Ecclesiastes 1:9–10 says it best: “Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes goes deeper than passing fads. It speaks to the meaning of life, spoken from the perspective of one who has seen the effects of a life seeking all different kinds of things. The author of Ecclesiastes highlights where people tend to spend their time and energy—primarily pursuing money, pleasure, and wisdom—and the bottom line? “Vanity of vanities…all things are vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
The Hebrew word for vanity, hevel, means futility, a chasing after wind, a grasping after shadows.
For centuries people have sought money, pleasure, and wisdom. In many ways, we are not unlike the generations that have come before us—even if the way we experience these things looks different. In essence, they are not new. Generations pass and the lessons learned by our ancestors are often forgotten by future generations. Whatever we have accumulated during our time on this earth will eventually fade away. Yes, even the low-rise jeans will leave one day (praise the Lord).
However, if there’s more to this life than what we see (2 Corinthians 4:18), and our lives matter to God (Isaiah 44:2), then everything we do matters to Him (Colossians 3:17).
And the difference between a life that is meaningless and a life that is meaningful?
Surprise, it’s you! More specifically, it’s what you choose to do with the one life you’ve been given.
You are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You are able to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
You are able to offer encouragement to those who are afflicted, because you have received encouragement from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
We have been given this time on earth to glorify God and bring others to Him. Everything else is vanity.
Sisters, we are uniquely equipped to tell the coming generations about the goodness, truth, and beauty of God. It’s our privilege to be His witnesses and ambassadors. We can share how God has worked in our own lives and in the life of our universal Catholic Church, with 2000 years of tradition and a history that extends even beyond that. Using the fleeting things of this world (money, pleasure, and wisdom) for His glory and to bring others to Him is precisely how we flip the switch from meaningless lives to lives rich in meaning.
Let us not be women who chase after the wind or grasp for shadows. Let us be women who stand firm and hold out our hands to offer the good news to a generation that desperately needs it (much more than low-rise jeans).
Everything else is vanity.
My best conversations happen unexpectedly in grocery store aisles. The most recent occurred at The Big Y, right here in town, next to the leg of lamb. I ran into my friend Diane who I had not seen in a while. She had come straight from confession where she had the most incredible encounter. Not in the confessional, but outside of it.
“There was a young woman waiting first in line who I had never seen before. She looked uncomfortable, and so I struck up a conversation, hoping to put her at ease.” (I love this about my friend. She sees into hearts, anticipates their needs.) “There is nothing you will say in there that the priest hasn’t already heard,” Diane encouraged her. The woman, sensing that my friend was a safe listener, shared that it had been many years since she had been to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Later, the young woman walked out of the confessional beaming. She glanced over at Diane and gave her two thumbs up. And as she headed to the pew to complete her penance, the young woman shared, “I think that I am going to stay for the 4 o’clock Mass.”
And that’s not even the incredible part of the story.
The incredible part of the story is what happened next. Diane invited the young woman to a church event the following evening, and with a genuine love for this stranger, right there next to that tasty ol’ leg of lamb, she quietly confessed to me, “I really can’t wait to see her tomorrow night. I hope that she comes. I really do.”
I stood in awe.
And after helping an elderly man choose a rib roast marinade (Diane, not me…I know nothing about making a rib roast, let alone its marinade), she turned the spotlight onto me. “And how are you?” she asked. “I see all of these wonderful things you are doing! YouTube videos, writing, and speaking! You are amazing.” Then the light that she had been radiating dimmed ever so slightly. “You know, I wish that I could do something big for God like you do.” To which I replied, “You just did.”
Do you know that before you were born God consecrated you and planned you for a specific mission? (Jeremiah 1:5)
Do you know that you have received hand-picked gifts from God that are to be used to glorify Him? (1 Peter 4:10)
Do you know that you are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand? (Ephesians 2:10)
Do you know that your desire to make a stranger feel at ease, your courage to extend an invitation that has the power to bring a woman into a deep relationship with Christ, and your compassion that leads you to help an old man find a recipe for a rib roast marinade are total gifts from God?
We are all tempted to take our eyes off our own paper and look at the gifts God hands out to our friends. Other people’s things always look better, don’t they? Seriously. Have you ever spent the night at a friend’s house and used her shower? She always has better soap and shampoo. And how about when you were a kid? Did you ever trade lunches with a classmate? I did. With Eunice Cha. Why? Because Eunice Cha’s mother made the most delicious sandwich and packed the best snack—pizza-flavored Goldfish in a baggie—that I had ever had. It’s human nature, my friends. We see, we covet, and then we wonder why God gave us the baggie with the boring Goldfish.
But you see, here’s what we need to remember. There are no boring gifts in God’s Kingdom. All His fish are flavored because God doesn’t create boring. And everything He creates has purpose and matters. Think about it like this: We are each like a puzzle piece in the world’s greatest puzzle ever. Have you ever worked hard on a puzzle only to discover that you are missing the last piece? It is maddening, isn’t it? You need that piece! You get on all fours and crawl beneath your kitchen table like you are a golden retriever just to find that piece. It doesn’t matter if it is the most detailed piece or the most nondescript piece. All you know is that you spent the last two weeks of your life trying to complete a picture that will never be complete unless you find that missing piece.
Like a puzzle piece, we too are meant to complete a bigger picture. If we focus on our one small piece, we lose sight of the greater narrative. Every piece matters. If, after reading this, you are still thinking to yourself, But I don’t want the nondescript piece! I want the cool piece!—ask yourself this: Am I using my gifts for God’s purposes or my own?
Do you want to know the truth about the work the Lord has called me to do? It is hard, and more often than not, I doubt that I have what it takes to complete it. I love it and it tortures me all at the same time. Ask my friend Beth how I get before a writing deadline. Or ask my husband how I feel the day I have to travel for a speaking engagement. So, if writing and speaking are so difficult, why do I choose to do it? Well, I didn’t choose. God did. And whatever God calls us to do, He supplies the means for it (Acts 1:8). For whatever reason, this is my mission. It is how the Lord asks me to serve Him, and the truth is, if I were to ignore this call that He has engraved on my heart, there would be a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I would grow weary from holding it in (Jeremiah 20:9).
And the truth about my friend, Diane? She is like St. Paul—speaking of what she has seen and heard to all she encounters (Acts 4:19–20)—and the last time I checked, Paul was an apostle that did pretty big things for God. Sure, she doesn’t have a YouTube series or a podium and microphone to preach the Gospel, but she doesn’t need those things because that is not where God needs her. What my beautiful friend doesn’t know is that she is doing the same exact work that I do, only better. Few people may see her piece in this grand puzzle of life. But God sees. And the leg of lamb sees. And really, what could possibly matter more than that?
With prayers for your mission,
P.S. I can’t help you out with a good recipe because that would imply that I cook, but I can tell you the first episode of Truth with Handles: The Conversation premieres this Thursday on the Walking with Purpose YouTube channel. Subscribe now—and remember to turn on notifications—so you don’t miss a single episode of season 2!
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