There’s an odd verse in Job. Well, I thought it was in Job, but it’s really in Ecclesiastes 7:
8 “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart[b] of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
The first part of the verse is what lodged itself in my brain this morning. It’s the kids’ last day of school. My classes ended a couple weeks ago. It’s the end of a few things at this point of the year, in the middle of May. Of course, it’s also the beginning of things –of summer, of a lot more free time, of (to my kids’ happiness) later bedtimes and being able to sleep later. But it was that last part that tied it all together this morning.
“Say not, ‘Why were the former times better than these?'”
It’s an honest question, really. Some parts of life I tend to look back on and recall only the pain, but there are a few parts that I look back on and remember almost all good, even though my logical self knows there was plenty of excrement blended in the sunshine. But I find myself thinking that thought –those thoughts– sometimes.
Anyway, it never ceases to amaze me how circular God made our world. So many things are cyclical. Dirt, for example. Made of dead things, yet without it, we can’t have life.
And soap. I’ve been taking over the kitchen this week with my soapmaking projects, hoping to assemble enough to hang out a small shingle and sell some of it at the farmer’s market this summer. I read something yesterday that revealed to me a possible part of why God in the Old Testament days was so fond of burnt offerings.
You see, when you burn an animal, it creates ash. When water drains through those ashes, it creates a kind of lye. When you combine that with the fat of an animal, it creates… soap. Cleansing. Any wonder that God chose the symbol he did for cleansing from sin when he made that ritual-picture for the children on Israel? Soap! From all that death and blood and mess. Life from death, cleansing from putrescence. What a creative God we serve, that we can enjoy (or at least appreciate) whatever part of the cycle-circle of life God has placed us in this present moment.