Don’t Live Life in Vain

IMG_2513I’m sitting at the table in our rental, looking out the window, Lake Michigan in the distance. It’s somewhat cloudy, but still some sun peeking through the clouds and a nice lake breeze in the air. Lake Michigan is a dark, deep blue today, the dunes a golden tan, covered in green grass, lighthouse in the distance.  I’m on the tail end of my vacation in NW Michigan, and this area of the country is such a contemplative and relaxing spot for me. When I’m on the coast, there’s a deep spirituality that brings something out of me. It’s why we keep coming up here. And the beauty is stunning.

But yet, you see the other side of life. The worldly life. Just a short walk away is the marina, with all its’ big boats. Amazing vacation homes dot the coastline. Cars drive by packed to the gills with stuff, kayaks and canoes tied to the top, bikes hanging of the back. People work hard to come up here, to enjoy a slice of Heaven for a few days, but yet often they bring their world with them. I bring mine too. I like to do all that stuff – creating fun, lifelong memories with my wife and son, spending time on the beach, and in the woods, and on the water and enjoying God’s great creation.

But as I watch, so often in such a beautiful place, and in places like this, we fail to see. We miss what is right in front of us. We have so many things, so much baggage that we carry with us – so much stuff that we feel will make us happy. In these amazing places we fail to embrace the gift of God right in front of us – the beautiful beach vistas, the amazing dunes, the lush forest, and the breathtaking sunsets. And instead, we’re still wrapped up in all that stuff we carry – the phones, the gadgets, the Pokemon Go app that causes us to miss the sunset. The big boats, all the stuff in our vacation homes. The family problems. The stress at work. All those things too often we drag with us.

We all have so much stuff in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having fun and enjoying life, and I’ve told me wife that I want to learn to kayak and that we may just one day buy a couple of those. And it’s my dream to have a home up here someday, where I can come to my own place for the summer and have an unobstructed view of this magnificent lake and its views. Not because of those things themselves, but for what I experience in nature, in the beauty of this land when I am up here, and in the feeling I get when I am up here.

I’m sure you all have places like that have this effect on you, whether it be in a far off place, or by a stream close to home. Maybe it’s on a mountain, or in a field. Rest and relaxation is good. It is necessary. God wants us to enjoy life. We all need a break from time to time. But I think an important part of any break, be it a vacation or just an afternoon off, is to take time for yourself and simply examine where you are in life, and most importantly, where you are spiritually.

Take the time for personal inventory, to look at why you are doing the things you do, and review your spiritual life and your relationship with God. What’s the state of every aspect of your life? You can simply do this on a long walk, no matter where you are. Because, if you see things – that baggage and those objects – and that they are first and foremost in your life, then where does that leave room for God? It all becomes vanity – a shell that surrounds a hollow soul.

We need to ask – where is my vanity? In today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes, vanity is the topic. Everything that clutters our mind, whether it be the love of our self, our things, or even the hard work we pride ourselves on, the things we worry about and those pains in our life – it is all vanity – that which separates us from God.

Vanity is excessive pride. Vanity is all that we put before God, those things we think show our value and our worth, but they are only a shell. Those things that we put before God that clutter up our mind. Often you don’t notice your clutter, until you take a break from everyday life.

Where is your vanity?  What do you worry about? What brings you anxiety?  What do you place before Christ?  Is it all your stuff?  Your toys and gadgets? Money? Your job? Do you simply focus on how hard you work for little reward and lose site of the bigger picture? Do the pains and sorrows of your life bring you down, and you lose site of the God all around you, the God in the moment?

Where is your vanity?  What do you treasure?  Jesus tells us today that all the stuff you hoard and gather during your life is of no good to you when you die if you keep it all to yourself when on this earth. If you worship other things, and not God, and don’t share the things in your life with others, then your life is basically in vain.

You see, it’s not about the boat, or all those things in your life… It’s about using the boat to get closer to Jesus. It’s about using the things in your life, those little blessings, for creating moments where you can become closer to God. I’ve written in previous weeks about finding Jesus in the moment… Well, that concept applies here.

Do you look to your experiences as a time to be with your friends and family, build relationships, and even look at your work and your sorrows as a way to serve God, to do His work? Even if it seems unfair?  Or do you simply dwell on it all and forget God, and forget that He has a plan for you?

Do you live your life in vain? We better take inventory, because we just do not know when our days will be over on this planet. Do you want it all to be in vain, or do you want it to be a springboard to something bigger?

I sit here, and I look over Lake Michigan. Water as far as the eye can see, except this time the clouds have rolled in. The calmness, the serenity, the deepness of God’s creation. It speaks to me. It’s what I like to call a God moment. I look out at the water, and I think about all the things in my life.

Where are things going well? Where are things going not so well?  Lord, where am I with you spiritually?  What things in my life do I place in front of you? What baggage do I carry?  Where is my vanity? If it were to all end tomorrow, would my legacy carry me to Heaven?  Where do I need to change? I feel as if my dialogue with God over the last few months has been one sided, and then as I think about it, it has been. But it hasn’t been God’s silence. It has been mine. He’s been speaking to me all along. I’ve just been placing things before Him.

I look out at that big lake, and I wonder, with the clouds, will we have a nice sunset?  It’s ok if we don’t, I’ve seen countless sunsets up here before. It’s just nice being out.  But just then, the clouds part and the sun shines through. A God moment. I just know He’s there. Sometimes we’ve got to stop, take inventory, and declutter. We need to tear the veil of vanity away from in front of us, removing all those things clouding our vision so that God’s light can shine through again.

Take a break, and take inventory of your life, and look for those things that you put before God, that cause you to miss out on God moments, and that cause you to live life in vain. And then make it a point to seeks His moments every day, and build the wealth that will get you to Heaven.

Today’s Readings for Mass

ECC 1:2; 2:21-23; PS 90; COL 3:1-5, 9-11; LK 12:13-21

About the Author

My name is Joe LaCombe, and I am a writer in Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA. My amazing wife Kristy and I have been married for 15 years and we have an awesome little boy, Joseph, who is in 1st Grade! We are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana where we volunteer with Adult Faith Formation, most recently with the marriage enrichment ministries. To see adults, and married couples embrace the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a beautiful thing, and being able to tap into my experiences and bring the message of God to people through the written word is a passion of mine. I am an avid runner! I love to run and be out in the nature that God created, so you will find me running not only on sunny days, but rainy days, and even snow! I love to train for and compete in distance races, and find a deep spirituality in running, and I see distinct parallels between running and spirituality and life. I am excited and extremely blessed to be able to contribute to this website and look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences!

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  1. how truely have you written…. so often we get caught up in the moments of anxiety stress about our future… our plans… we miss those moments of time we could learn and give to Him… its tym we focus on incorporating more of Him n less of us in our lives… bless us all oh Lord ! thank you

  2. Thanks Joe for the wonderful reflection. I realized I need to declutter myself from earthly things and focus to God’s creation.

  3. There are several scripture passages which confirm that we live our life one moment and one day at a time. There is no value whatsoever in creating a life style based on “stuff” we have accumulated because no one except God can predict what is going to happen tomorrow. Recall the farmer who had an abundant harvest and wanted to build a bigger barn to hold the harvest… God called him home that night… God has been with us since the moment of our creation… there has never been a moment in our life when God has not been with us… and yet, for many (including myself at times), the strongest motivation are answers to the questions… do I have enough of the “right” stuff? … what life style do I need to get more of the “right” stuff?

  4. Thanks Joe.
    May God help us to focus our attention more on Him and every other good thing will be granted to us.

  5. I am the one being silence in my discussion with God not that God is silence, He is always talking to me, but I keep on blocking Him.

    The reflection is quite helpful. I am being fed. Thank you Joe.

  6. Your reflection is thought provoking. I would only suggest that maybe you clarify your vacations location a little better. I believe you were on the NW coast of the (lower peninsula) of Michigan. I was born and raised in the upper peninsula. The locals there call it “Gods country” because of all the beauty there. Perhaps one day, if you truly want to get away, you might spend some time in the UP of Michigan.

  7. Your words and our scripture today, especially relate to me as word came of a young woman I was aquatinted with, had left for work from her camper, that she loved, to go to work. She never made it. She was killed in her car on the way. I guess it’s a “God Moment”.

  8. Thank you Joe.. this is very inspiring.. I know i need to de-clutter and this piece is going to be very helpful with doing that.

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