“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2
It was a cold winter Friday night in early 1982 on Cape Ann, about 20 miles north of Boston, MA. I was a junior in college and I was itching to leave the restaurant, which I believe was named The Pewter Pot. It was located in Danvers, MA, next to the mall. Sitting at the table with me that night were Dave, Bruce, and Roger. I sat at the table, bored silly, with zero recollection of communication I had received earlier in the week that Dave would experience something on the weekend that would “lift his spirits”.
Dave, who I had known since kindergarten, had been having a particular discouraging spell at college. Bruce was one of those “let’s do something to lift someone’s spirit” kind of people. While many might define “something” as simple as a trip to a Hallmark store or a cup of coffee and a desert at a popular restaurant on a Friday night, Bruce’s “something” kind of thinking tended to push the envelop so far that it produces ideas that caused him to worry decades later about felonies and statutes of limitations. Roger was Bruce’s friendly thug, the mountainous gentle giant of a man who would force you to do whatever Bruce had defined was good for “lifting your spirits.”
I could clearly see the front door from my seat. As someone was chatting away at the table, I was distracted by four of the baddest looking dudes imaginable who had just entered the restaurant. I watched as their eyes panned the restaurant until they focused on our table. At that point, they walked out.
“Huh. I wonder what that was all about.”
I was generally annoyed as we got up to leave the restaurant. I don’t remember why. I just know I was eager to get back to campus and to get away from Roger and Bruce. I walked out the door, passing by the four thugs who were huddling just outside the restaurant entrance. After walking all the way out to the car, I looked back and saw the four thugs now conversing with Dave, Bruce, and Roger.
“This can’t be good.”
The sense of danger exploded as I watched Bruce and Dave being forced to head to a white Cadillac in the parking lot while two of the other thugs followed Roger towards the car where I was waiting. As Roger got close to me, I inquired as to what was going on. The man with the build of an NFL linebacker and the style of “lumberjack wanna-be” looked at me like he was in total fear. He could only mutter the words “do whatever they say and they say we won’t be hurt.” Within a few seconds, Roger was fumbling nervously for the car keys as he sat in the driver’s seat. A thug sat directly in front of me and another thug sat to my left in the back seat with me. Roger turned on the engine and did as he was told – “follow the Caddy.”
As we drove from Danvers into Beverly, MA, I immediately understood “everything is meaningless.” Whatever problems I had in my life a few minutes ago when I had munched on a muffin had evaporated. Whatever goals and dreams I had for my life had disappeared. My mind was in a state so few of us ever experience – a state where there is nothing to worry about and nothing to long for. You see, when you think you are a few minutes from being murdered, nothing else matters. I remember looking out the window at the stars, trying to reflect upon a life that was about to be cut short at the age of 20. Everything seemed so meaningless. However, when you are under such mental duress, your body’s coping mechanisms tend to shutdown all thought whatsoever, not unlike trying to sustain rational thought in the hospital after the anesthesia begins to put you into la-la land.
By the time we pulled up to a windowless barn, my mental coping mechanisms had turned me into a spectator of the incident, void of any emotional attachment to what was taking place. I was watching a TV show, even though it was my body that was on the screen, climbing up the steps to the second floor. A single light bulb made visible the graffiti on the walls and the punching bag that hung from the ceiling.
There was no such thing as years. No such thing as months. No such things as weeks. No such thing as days. No such thing as hours. No such thing as minutes. At that moment in my life, my only concept of time was seconds. Whatever bloody crime scene that was about to be created would certainly occur within the next 60 seconds.
At that point, one of the thugs reached out to shake Roger’s hand. They began to laugh and Bruce joined in.
This is the only time in my life that I punched anyone. All the surpressed emotional trauma of the last 45 minutes was channeled into my fist as it said hello to Roger’s stomach. This whole charade, this vignette, had been cooked up in Bruce’s mind as a way to free Dave of his discouragement! I was supposed to be in on it, a co-conspirator, but somehow Bruce and Roger had failed to check off on their to-do list that Charles had been informed of the prank. I was as much a victim of the whole thing as Dave was.
I went back to campus that night and was excited to be alive! Life was beautiful! As I skated on the outdoor rink at school, the ice seemed wonderful. That skater’s red jacket was fantastic. The song playing on the loudspeaker had glorious notes. The professor who had been difficult to deal with seemed like as lovable as a newborn baby bunny. Everything about life was lovable.
I met up with Bruce a few years ago. Bruce, by the way, is not his real name. Roger is a ficticious name too. You see, Bruce spoke of his shame for having done that. He knew he had actually committed felony kidapping, made worse by the fact a real gun was shown to Dave in the white Cadillac for dramatic effect. He had worried for a long time that Dave and I would file charges and he and Roger might actually go to jail. Dave and I just laugh about it now – or use it in blog articles about “everything is meaningless.”
The point? One day, we are going to see Jesus Christ face-to-face. At that moment, there will be no more problems. There will be no more goals and dreams. There will be no more annoyances and frustrations. Once we encounter our true love, nothing else will matter. We will lose all concept of time. Everything is meaningless in life when anything is compared to having a personal face-to-face relationship with He who loved you so much to die on the cross for Your sins.
Whatever problems you have this moment? It will vanish the moment you see your Savior face-to-face. Whatever compares to that moment, it is meaningless!