It Is Not In Vain

“So there is hope, & it will not have been for nothing after all.”
~ Demelza ~ BBC’s Poldark

Several months ago, a group of friends & I traipsed around Princeton in the rain. Princeton has such a vintage atmosphere and the rain only added to the old academia moodiness.

It’s the sort of place that makes you want to wear tweed & stay up late in hazy rooms having slow, quiet literary conversations that are probably in a British accent.

~ princeton ~ an atmosphere

You feel it?

It’s the sort of place that has you speaking in hushed tones as you wander in and out of courtyards and under archways and hear your voice echo in the empty spaces. It’s a place that makes you feel solemn and thoughtful.

In such a fast-paced, loud world as ours, perhaps there are few of those sorts of places left. King Solomon said it’s better to be in the house of mourning than in the house of feasting for that is the end of all men & the living will take it to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2). We’re all headed for the grave, unless Christ returns first. As dying men & women, we ought to live soberly, knowing that each moment is precious; once gone, we can’t ever get them back.

That should tinge our living, lovely humans. It should flavour all our actions. We’re not here to merely feast & laugh ourselves silly 24/7. Princeton was, among other things, a reminder to take time for reflection & pause amid the constant chatter of our modern age.

But it also reminded me that life isn’t a fool’s errand of wasted time, missed opportunities, & failure.

2 bronze tigers sit outside Nassau Hall on Princeton’s campus. The years and the elements have weathered the bronze to that greenish-blue colour of the Statue of Liberty but the animals still look fierce and solemn.

Underneath 1 of the tigers, there’s a plaque, weathered to the same colour as the tigers. The letters on the plaque sit close together and you’ve got to peer closely to read them; but it’s well worth it.

I wandered away from my lil group, ambled over the cicada-covered ground (yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds…we crunched cicadas under our feet at nearly every step), & stood in front of the large statues.

It was a Moment, lovely humans.

I stood in the misty rain, umbrella over my head, in the midst of history, reading history with my eyes. Rain pooled around the steps leading to the hall and lay slick on the concrete. Cicada shells clung to ropes which hung from the high roof of the hall.

Everything grew silent, even the distant voices of my companions faded away as I took in the words etched on the plaque. One bit stood out to me, haunted me from that day, haunted me in the best of ways:

it read “behold, we have not lived in vain”.

Behold…we have not lived in vain.

I smiled as I read those words & whispered them into the damp air.

I was half-way through a weekend that would sap nearly all of my strength and emotional energy. It was 4 days of constant human interaction with barely any time to rest & recharge my lil introverted batteries. My body paid the price for it later, but that’s not the point right now haha

The point is, that brief moment of quiet in a loud, fast-paced weekend did wonders for my heart. The Lord reminded me that my life has not been lived in vain & that means none of my actions done for His glory have not been in vain either.

My desire to honour Him by stepping outside of my comfort zone that weekend, subjecting myself to a situation that I knew would bring me to the end of myself;

that desire to honour Him by loving those around me was not in vain.

& lovely humans, you have not lived in vain either.

It’s the end of 2021 now & the ending of this year is just like the ending of any other year for many of us. It finds us weary & bedraggled, wondering what it’s all been for.

Health issues remain un-resolved,
relationships remain fractured,
legitimate longings remain unfulfilled,
goals remain un-met,
wounds remain un-healed,
situations remain stagnant,
loved ones remain un-saved,
questions just…remain.

& we feel like screaming into the night “has this all been for nothing? has it all been in vain? have the tears & efforts been wasted?”
& the hamster-wheel continues spinning beneath our feet with a nightmarish repetition of tires churning in mud.

& they tell us there’s hope in all of this but, like Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring, we can’t see it.

I re-watched The Fellowship last Saturday night in a cozy home-theatre, surrounded by fellow Middle-Earth-loving friends & Boromir’s struggle resonated like it’s always resonated.

There’s this scene where he bares his soul to Aragorn & Aragorn listens despite their rivalry & the tension between them (loads of lessons right there…).

Boromir tells Aragorn “she said to me, ‘even now, there is hope left’ but I cannot see it. It is long since we had any hope”.

Ugh, it gets me every time ’cause it’s so.true. How often do we feel like Boromir?
Situations have gone on for months (let alone years) & as the days tick by, hope fades. & each time someone tells us to keep praying, keep trusting Christ, keep pressing on, (if we’re honest), we want to scream & tell them they don’t get it, they don’t understand what we’ve suffered, they don’t understand how hard it is to wake up another morning & face the long dark of another day.

‘Cause, it’s far easier to despair than it is to hope; &, as humans, we’re all about the easy way.

& then the whisper comes in the misty rain, words whispered down the long ages of history itself:
behold, we have not lived in vain.

Behold, the tears have not been in vain; the Most High treasures them up in His bottle (Psalm 56:8)
Behold, the prayers have not been in vain; the Most High has heard every single one (Psalm 116:1-2)
Behold, the efforts have not been in vain; if done for His glory, He will bless them all (Galatians 6:8)

One of my pastors encouraged us to keep pouring Christ’s Truth into the hearts of young ones around us, whether as parents with children or helpers at VBS or aunts & uncles with nieces & nephews etc etc.

He said sometimes seeds are planted now & the Most High waters them in His time. & sometimes “His time” means years down the road.
Don’t lose heart & don’t grow weary while doing good.

Another pastor said you don’t know the influence you may have until years later; you don’t know who may be watching you now & will point back to you as an example of faithfulness & courage in years to come.

Our view is so narrow as finite beings, we see only what’s right before us: the pain, the sorrow. If only we could zoom out with supernatural vision & see with the eyes of eternity.

The hardest bit is knowing that we may never see the affirmative answers to our prayers in this life. We may die with un-healed wounds, un-saved loved ones, un-healed illness, un-fulfilled longings.
& is He still to be trusted?
Is He still good?
Trace His hand through the pages of Scripture.
Trace His hand through the pages of your life.
& you’ll see the answer in letters of gold:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, & forever (Hebrews 13:8) & that means He can be trusted.

Oh lovely humans, be brave, be strong, be glad.
There is still Hope & it will not have been for nothing after all.

Behold, we have not lived in vain 🖤

~ the weathered plaque in Princeton that started it all ~ many thanks to Mrs. B for graciously using her connections to find this photo for me ’cause I, naturally, forgot to take a photo of it myself since I was too busy enjoying the dreamy moment ~

“I could not but think that if the great and noble men whom this institution necessarily recalls, the founders of our country, were here today, as, thanks be to God, they may be invisibly to us, what joy would fill their hearts as they saw the evidence of love of country and of respect for its institutions marked by the presence of the president of the United States and by the invitation, not to me personally, but to the Chief Justice and also by these ceremonies.

I could see them here, Washington and those who founded our institutions, and hear them say: Behold, we have not lived in vain. The love of the country which we founded remains, the institutions of freedom which we established are not passing off the face of the earth, but safe in the hearts of its people, the might nation which stretches from ocean to ocean will preserve and transmit them to those who are to come, as a priceless blessing for the maintenance of the freedom and the liberty of mankind.”
~ from the speech of the Chief Justice of the United States delivered on the steps of Nassau Hall at the inauguration of Present Hibben on May 1912 ~

“She said to me ‘even now, there is hope left’, but I cannot see it. It is long since we had any hope.”
~ Boromir ~ The Fellowship of the Ring (film version)

:: we’re in a War, my friends, & we all need Courage on the Front Lines ::

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