Tan: Facing life's vanity with a quiet heart

"Vanity of vanities" says the Preacher, "Vanities of vanities" All is vanity! -- Ecclesiastes 1:2

WE START the year 2018 with a desire, and ultimately, a strong resolve to be quiet in our hearts. Let me remind you that the details we want are not available right away or right now. In the absence of details, we learn to walk in faith, cultivate a quest for quietness of the heart, asking hard questions and learning to trust God as we face the raw realities of life.

I am apprehensive about inviting you to study if it would mean only filling the mind with information, or fuelling our addiction for results and to be among those labeled as the most effective ones, but I am being courageous, and at the same time, scared to lead you and walk with you through this journey of exploring the inner longings of the heart towards God... and others... and self.

Ecclesiastes opens the door to an unedited and unsanitized venue where we face life and cultivate quietness and trust, and in slowing down, we discover spiritual strength. With the word of God before us, the Spirit of God as our guide for enlightenment, let us dig deeper. Are we on the same page when we reflect about the meaning of what a quiet heart is? Do we have the same expectations? To be sure, let me enumerate to you what I mean and expect from a quiet heart.

* A heart that is not in a hurry for answers.
* A heart that is hungry for God.
* A heart that is not afraid to ask questions.
* A heart that desires to discover what is really going on inside.
* A heart that cries for cleansing, chance and change
* A heart that longs for Intimacy with God . . . free from vanity....sorry for the long list.

The first reality that confronts us is that life is full of vanities, in fact, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes, everything is vanity. Honestly, the word 'vanity', to me, sounds so harmless when compared to the word 'catastrophe'. The immediate meaning of this word is meaningless.

But dig deeper and it gives you an alarming picture rather than just that of boredom. Vanity is an attitude of arrogance, self-assertion, haughty, hubris, or simply put, proud... the opposite of humble and selflessness. A vain lifestyle, on the other hand, is a life addicted to power, always aiming to be at the top, a life of entitlement and superiority. Such lifestyle is truly meaningless and empty and outright madness.

Please don't be surprised when I tell you I see a whole lot of vanities and unbelievably vain lifestyles, not in the world of politics and entertainment, I see it in right here in my world, the world of religion and ministry. I am tempted to list my findings but to spare you from these dirty linens of my world, let me just say, people of the cloth, people of ministry have surpassed the power addiction of the politicians. In the rat-race of vanity, many of my kind have outrun the others. What makes matters worse is that our breed is not the usual suspect. I elaborate on this to prove that the virus of vanity should never be limited on a targeted crowd or the usual suspect. Confront your bias and see that this is a deep problem of the whole rather than just an isolated case of the naive.

Well, that is our first stop in Ecclesiastes... Facing life's Vanities with A Quiet Heart. A heart that admits our own vanity... a heart that will take time to OBSERVE what really is going on in the routine of the race of vanity; a heart that will courageously ask what is really going on in the inner man; a heart that will investigate the undernourished soul, and in so doing, avail of the grace of God to leave the rat-race and find what is truly liberating to the soul; becoming willing to sacrifice for others rather than just pursuing a life of vanity. Actually, a vain heart sends a message more than vanity. It is a heart crying for authenticity in the midst of a pretentious lifestyle. It still longs for simplicity and contentment, longing to leave the rat-race. A vain heart is ripe for a radical transformation from above, skipping the protocols of politics, religion and culture into a genuine spiritual encounter with God.

This radical transformation requires a process of subtraction of the junks we added that have blocked intimacy with God. Radical transformation requires letting out the hot air of the heart until it becomes a picture of powerlessness... becoming less desirous instead of the vanity of having more; to be more acquainted to the ordinary than desiring a celebrity status; having a heart which is hungry for relationships rather than results; a radical heart that will resist the temptation of power addiction... fully aware of the world's seduction to the unholy trinity of power addiction... To be relevant, to be respected, to be remembered. In our quest for conquering the vanities of life, let us begin with prayer and let prayer lead us to seek God's presence and let God's presence grant us A QUIET HEART... Amen
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