Experience Is All We Get
With school sessions completed, days becoming longer, and temperatures warming up, the joy of summertime has picked up momentum in my household. Immediately following our children’s last day of school, my family began spending more time outside and our activities have become more playful. Living in a time of relative peace, safety, and abundance, it’s a joyful time that my family and I have been blessed with the ability to enjoy.
I believe that what has made the time so precious involves the fact that we have simply enjoyed our time together, with one another. The most satisfying moments are the most accessible ones — a walk in the neighborhood; an evening gazing at the stars; an afternoon fishing; sharing stories and bad jokes during dinnertime. All of these experiences have been miniature treasures that cost us only the time it takes to experience them.
Solomon makes comments throughout the book of Ecclesiastes about appreciating the present lives we live. We can see a succinct summary of this notion in Ecclesiastes 2:24, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” Apparently, this most-wealthy king was wise enough to see that the simple pleasures in life are a blessing from God that all of us have the capacity to enjoy.
It is worth noting that Solomon, who was known for the abundance of his riches, mentions that the material he managed to amass was not the source of joy. On the contrary, he expresses the tremendous grief that it caused (compare Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, 2:17-21). The reconciliation he finds is that his joy comes from the appreciation of the inherent experience of work and the simple satisfaction in the most basic of life’s activities. It is the experience of life that he values more than its riches.
There are very few things in life that cannot be taken away from us. Even Solomon laments that our physical possessions are among the easiest to lose. We may lose those who are near and dear to us too. But our ability to experience life’s events, whether good or bad, can never be taken away. Experience is built into being. The relentless pace of time continues forward and accumulates experience, captured in memories that we keep as long as our memory retains them. Since experience is among the most durable of our possessions, it only makes sense to attribute a commensurate amount of value in how we treat it.
By contrast, the physical world that we live in offers us nothing that is materially permanent. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 informs us, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Not only is contentment with our existence a perspective to nurture, we can see that there are negative consequences when we dedicate our time and attention to the accumulation of the wrong kind of possession. The love of money and material gain lies at the source of the kind of behavior and priorities that lead us away from God. Certainly, if we want to live an eternally good life, we must begin now by placing value in what matters. And what matters is not material.
The time we have to live these physical lives is finite and short. In addition, this age in which we live in relative peace, safety, and abundance is exceedingly short. Knowing that we all have the capacity to experience the events that God prepares for us, and that the time we have to enjoy them is limited, we ought to pay attention and appreciate the moments of our lives. God works to provide us with occasions for growth. It’s up to us to take the time to extract as much as we can from the experience He offers us. For, experience is all we get in this life.