In this season of my life, I am going through some shedding and pruning for new hairs and fruits. Spiritually. Mentally. Personally. In this season, my heart is convicted. In Ecclesiastes, The Preacher emphasizes on fearing the Lord and keeping His commandments which is true wisdom. I’d sought after and desired wisdom since I was a child.
One of the many key themes in the book of Ecclesiastes is “vanity.” Ecclesiastes relentlessly repeats how meaningless all of the world is. I started thinking of that single word that stuck out to me, vanity. Vanity: “vanity of a person is seen as having excessive estimation (overestimation) of one’s self, abilities, looks, or other attributes that makes them have an excessive belief in their own abilities or attractiveness to others.” Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes, it reads:
There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.
This is a strange and complex concept, the meaning that all things gained are worthless and meaningless in the end. I am not an expert nor do I fully understand this, yet, but this has got me thinking about my own vanity, my excessive pride and admiration in my own appearance and achievements. Honestly, sometimes try not to flaunt or draw attention to myself and my status because as much as I want to say that I am not concerned with appearance and achievements, truthfully, there is a piece of me that does fancy both.
Titles and status are highly valued in my culture. When my dad has family dinners with distant relatives and family members, he likes to express how proud he is by mentioning that I, his youngest daughter, completed her B.A. and is now working as a teacher at a dual language school in the cities. So sometimes when I am in the room or overhear him proudly speak of me to others, I would hide behind a smile because the sense of embarrassment overwhelms me. Then I would slowly walk away awkwardly and act as if I had not heard a word, that it’s not a big deal. However, I would go home from the dinner parties feeling, perhaps, a little contented.
As this scene repeated itself over and over, I started to develop a sense of pride in secret which is what I occasionally call a false humility. This is evident in that when a friend asks, “How have you been?” and “What’s going on in your life?” I’d make it sound like everything in my life is going great. I’d talk about what it’s like to teach preschoolers, to work with other teachers, to work full time, I’d talk about all that I know about teaching. I’d talk about it proudly as if I had been doing it for more than a few months. I talk in such a way because I think I have something to prove, that I have to show others how good I am doing in life, that I am in the direction of surpassing their expectations of me because I carry a title.
This has gotten me feeling weary, deceiving, and dishonest. It’s basically exaggerations and even lies sometimes. I carry a high expectation of myself. I carry a title that I think is high and worth carrying. I focus on what others think of me because I value myself and what I have going for myself. I have all these things yet don’t enjoy them, and in the end, it will be all meaningless. This is what I’m trying to say. This is my vanity.
Today, I will put my vanity to death. To be real with myself and others around me, I will be disciplining in ways that, I believe, will prune my bad fruits. This month, I want to challenge myself to selfless acts. I will reduce my mirror time every morning by half, and I will instead dwell on The Word and prayer. This month, I will also volunteer and help others when I can before helping myself, be it at school, on the streets, grocery store, at church.
I conclude with this prayer…
Lord, I want to know your heart. Place your will in me that I may be used by you.