the bottomline

Setting the bar too low
Thursday, June 25, 2020 by Dan Allen

“This is the worst day of my life!” so bemoaned my six-and–a–half–year–old grandson. And he was serious as he repeated it several times.

We were to their southwest state for a visit when he, his younger sister and mom joined us at the outdoor pool at our hotel. The mom, our daughter–in–law, called it like a “staycation” for them since all the other pools were still closed due to the pandemic. The first two days the kids had a great time splashing, jumping into the pool, swimming and all the stuff that go along with it. I’m sure they slept well each night. The third and final day, however, was different. Another family or two were there. The kids were slightly older and, since they arrived at the pool earlier, had kind of claimed it for themselves. Our grandson was hoping to play with them, but to no avail. There might have been some bullying going on. He even threatened the kids that he would get his Poppi. Finally, our gang left.

Was it the worst day of his life? Well, he and I talked about this. I tried to get him to look at the bigger picture of life—there would be some really bad experiences up ahead that he’d have to endure. In fact, I gave an illustration. What happens when a girl you really like dumps you? Don’t you think that will be worse than what you experienced today? In his vast experience of just 2,391 days on the earth, this, however, was the worst—nothing could match it. But I’m slightly older by over 21,000 days and I’ve seen much worse—like going through the valley of the shadow of death several times. Trust me, son, there will be times when it is much, much worst.

Without understanding, he put the bar too low. Do we put the bar too low or too high? It’s a balancing act, right? Maybe some lows are below the bar and highs that soar way past our expectations.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes, believed by many scholars to be King Solomon, who at the time was the wisest man to live (1 Kings 4:30), tried to put things in perspective in hopes of producing an even keel in life. He begins by noting that all is vanity—“vanities of vanities, all is vanity” (1:2). We may put a lot of sweat, blood and tears into our labor, but we’re here today and gone tomorrow. There’s vanity in wisdom and self–indulgence—it’s dust to dust. There’s a difference between wisdom and folly. Obviously, the former is preferred for it could lead to righteousness. But, death comes to all—the righteous and the wicked. So, “enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that He has given you under the sun . . .” (9:9). He ends this little book acknowledging the importance of the “words of the wise” which he likens to “goads, and like nails firmly fixed” (12:11). And then it’s: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (vs. 14).

And there you have it. God knows the good and the evil. He knows the highs and the lows of life. All of this needs to be put into perspective. But here’s the key that Solomon gives: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (vs. 13). 

Was it the worst day of my grandson’s life? Nope, not even close. And, if I remember, I’ll remind him of how low he put the bar when that girl dumps him. More importantly will be the reminder of what truly “is the whole duty” of each of us despite the highs and the lows in life.


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