Move triggers gratitude to God for ‘ordinary days’

By Heath Bradley, Special Contributor…

Andrea and I have lived in eight different places over our 13 years together. We are used to moving. That doesn’t really make it any easier.

I guess each move gets a little harder. More things to accumulate and more emotional attachments to more things.

I’ve accumulated nearly 2,000 books about the Bible, theology and baseball. That takes a long time to pack, especially when you feel the need to thumb through each one as you lay them to rest in the box.

Yesterday, we gave away a little kitchen that the girls have now outgrown. Andrea cried about it, and I pretended like it wasn’t that big of a deal. It is just a big chunk of plastic. But I wiped away a tear when she wasn’t looking.

There is a book in the Old Testament that is very different from all the other books. It is called Ecclesiastes. Many people have interpreted it as articulating a very cynical and pessimistic view of life. It surveys the full range of human experience in a very raw and honest way. I like it a lot.

One of the frequent refrains throughout the book is, as it is put in many translations, “All is meaningless” or “All is vanity.” These translations, however, are interpretations that I think miss what the ancient sage who wrote Ecclesiastes is getting at. The Hebrew word often translated as “meaningless” is hevel, and it literally means mist, fog or smoke.

One could read that as saying that because life is mist—fleeting and temporary—it is without meaning. One could also read that as saying that because life is like mist, each moment is infinitely meaningful and precious. Depends on how you want to look at it. I think the old teacher takes the latter view, because he repeatedly says things like this, from Ecclesiastes 2:24:

“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.”

Ordinary days—getting the mail, helping your kids with homework, doing your work, going to the grocery store, getting upset with your family, cleaning the house, watching The Daily Show, worrying about your kids, making love, eating supper (not necessarily in that order)—are from God.

They are all hevel. They are all fleeting and temporary. They are all mist.

Infinitely meaningful mist.

Being in a state of moving reminds me that the meaning of life is found in the midst of the mist.

I hope I can remember that once we get settled in the new place.

The Rev. Bradley is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Conference, and will soon begin his new appointment as the United Methodist campus minister at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He is also the author of Flames of Love: Hell and Universal Salvation.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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