Lost in the fog of life?
I bet that you are familiar with fog. As you know, fog is most likely to occur at night or near dawn when the temperature of the day is normally at its lowest. The cool ground air forms fog and dew as the air-cools and water vapors condense into tiny droplets of water. You have seen it, experienced it, and suffered it so many times.
Now, close your eyes and think about that thick, pea-soup thick fog, where you can barely see your backyard. Think about the thick fog that turns the most brilliant and beautiful colors into dull grays.
Think about the thick fog that tricks you to think that a field, or trees or a combine seem to be far away, when you in fact know that they are close at hand. And you know, perhaps by experience, that in the fog one may trip over an unseen stone or get lost – all points of reference blurred away.
In the fog, things appear not to have any beginning or end. Forms and shapes fade in or, as we move, just fade away.
Fog. Or, in the words of Qohelet, the author of the book that we know as Ecclesiastes, is what he had in mind when he began his book writing, “Havel havalim … hakol havel.”
The fog of fogs. All life is fog. Those are the Hebrew words that the author used to describe his experience of life.
I am sorry to say, that I cannot explain why the more rich and deeper understanding of “fog, breath, mist” was lost in translation first into Greek, and then into Latin and, eventually, into English.
So, let’s stick with what the author meant when he declared that much, even perhaps all of life is like a dense fog that distorts what it is of true and lasting value.
Commenting on today’s lesson, Professor Alastair Roberts writes that, “There are few more potent and fecund metaphors for human life, activity, and thought than that of vapor, breath, or mist.” Or fog.
“Life is like groping through a dense fog, which shrouds and veils reality, preventing us from seeing through to the heart of things.”
Fog cannot be controlled. “We can neither grasp nor control it. It slips through our fingers, eluding all of our attempts at mastery. It is fleeting and ephemeral. It leaves no trace or mark of its passing but passes into nothing.” In the end, fog provides no “bedrock for security against decay or change.”
Fog. It is there and, almost in the twinkling of an eye, it is gone. In the book, Qohelet considers his toil in life as chasing the wind, all effort as real and yet as unreal as a thick morning fog.
It is, I believe, the kind of fog that absorbed the foolish farmer in today’s Gospel story. Yes. He built large barns. He amassed a large crop. He created the ADM or the Cargill of his day. And then, at the end of the day, he just lost his life in the fog of life, chasing the winds of fortune.
In the fog of life, he lost the brilliant colors of love, community, hope, family, and honest labor while embracing the dull green of money and profit. He had everything and yet, he had nothing.
In writing to our brothers and sisters in Colossae St. Paul made a very challenging even, dare I say it, a radical observation.
At its heart, “In the Christian life it doesn’t matter whether one is a Jew, or Episcopal or Catholic, or none of the above. Whether one went to an Ivy League school, or one is a high-school dropout.
“It doesn’t matter whether one’s family came in the Mayflower or if they landed from a dingy, or were brought into this land against their will. It doesn’t matter whether the family voted Republican from generations or if they are staunch pro-labor woke Democrats.” All that, my friends – wrote St. Paul – “It is just fog.”
What matters at the end of the day is not what makes us rich and powerful – how big are our barns, or how much people admire us, and how many monuments people dedicate to our honor. Like fog, all that the world considers of value, eventually it will vanish into thin air.
Indeed, immersed in the fog of life, all sense of direction and perspective will be lost. In a way we become what we were not meant to be – the center of the universe.
But here is the good news.
In God’s sight, every person is viewed and valued, accepted and embraced as a beloved child of God. In fact, Jesus himself is a living sign of God’s refusal to give up on anyone. As you know, however, our Lord’s way of accepting all those who came to him didn’t go unnoticed. And for that He was firmly criticized and, eventually, crucified.
How did Jesus respond to his critics? He told them three parables – The lost son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep. And, without even using the word, our Lord’s life and ministry reflects his boundless love, care, and concern for those lost in the fog of life – “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost,” (Luke 19:10).
So, if you are going through a foggy patch in your life or if have come to the realization that you’ve been in the thick of it for a long, long time, here is the good news.
The brilliant light of Christ’s love will dispel and dissolve any and all darkness, and like the warming light of a beacon will guide you safely back home.
Let me finish with these encouraging words from our Psalm, “In the days of old, some wandered in desert wastes; they found no way to a city where they might dwell. They were hungry and thirsty; their spirits languished within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He put their feet on a straight path to go to a city where they might dwell.”
Here is even more good news – God did it for them, and He will do it for you. Again, and again. Seek and you shall find. You may feel lost. But Jesus never is, and the Savior will know where to find you and how to bring you safely back home. Amen.