Summary: Prayer emphasis fall 1987: common wisdom is that we will never change, and the cynic believes that. Like Koheleth we can lose hope for everything. But the Christ who will come gives us hope, life, companionship, and is at work in all things for change a

One of the rules you learn when you study the discipline of marriage counseling is that you must try to help young people preparing for marriage to know at least this much: that whatever he or she is now, they will be more of it in fifty years. Whatever he or she is now, they will be more of it in twenty or thirty or forty or fifty years.

I hasten to say that I am not referring to poundage, although that would apply too to some of us. I am referring to personal characteristics, I am referring to elements of your bride’s or your groom’s character and personality. Whatever he or she is now, so will they be, only more so, as the years go by.

If he is irritable during football season now, lady, after you marry him and put a few years on him, he will be insufferable from Labor Day through the last Sunday in January.

If she is vain now, just wait until there are another 10,000 miles on the chassis, and she will make you late for everything getting the face and the hair just right.

Whatever that bride, that groom, is now, so will they be, yea ten times over as the years pass. Women have for years supposed that they could change that unruly lout by marrying him, they have taken on fellows as missionary projects, only to fail beyond their wildest dreams.

Gentlemen: well, I had a professor when I was in engineering school, who would offer us free lectures on how to choose a wife. Had very little to do with engineering, but it was supposed to be an illustration of how the scientific method could be applied to all of life. Shorty Long, about 5 feet one inch, would counsel us on how to select a wife. And you must remember that in the 50's there were precious few women in engineering school, even fewer than in the seminary. So he felt free to offer this method. First, said Shorty Long, find out how old her grandparents were when they died, take an average, and then you can predict how long she will live. It was not quite clear whether you were hoping for a high average or a low one. And then, said Professor, take a good look at her mother, because that's what she will look like 25 or 30 years from now. Is that what you're going to want?

Well, he encouraged us to do everything but examine the teeth of our prospective brides, but the basic principle is exactly what I have been talking about. Whatever someone is now, when they reach maturity, they will be the same, only more so. Whatever and whoever you and I are now, humanly speaking, that will intensify with the passing years.

I believe that if there is any truth to that it is more true in the spiritual life than in any other aspect of our lives. If who and what we are physically and emotionally only becomes more pronounced as we grow up and grow out and reach full maturity, how much more does our spiritual self intensify and deepen and become fixed. How much more pronounced we are, again, humanly speaking, when we take the long look backward and assess what it's all about.

You see, that's what happened, in my judgment, to the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes, or Koheleth, as the Hebrew puts it; the preacher, the teacher, as we would say in English. The preacher Koheleth begins his writing with a moan and a sigh. He takes a look at life as he is called to lead it, and sees very little to be happy about. And the longer he lives, the more he muses, the profounder his sense of resignation and almost despair about the meaning of life.

Today we would likely call him a cynic. A cynic, you know, is one who despairs that anything will every really be different, that especially will anything ever really improve. A cynic is never surprised by human sin or incompetence or phoniness; he knew all along it would happen. The cynic is convinced of the essential hollowness of life, and expects the worst. So Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson have both confessed to premarital sexual liaisons; so what, says the cynic, we didn't expect better of preachers, especially Baptist preachers. So over a hundred administration officials have been indicted or accused of various legal infractions; so what, says the cynic, I'm not shocked. They do it all the time.

The cynic, you see, is more than a pessimist. A pessimist expects the worst, but a cynic knows the worst before it happens. And a cynic, in fact, sees the worst for himself not just for others, but for himself. Let me quit trying to describe the cynic and let Koheleth, the preacher of the Old Testament, bear witness to what he felt when he looked back on a long life and a whole lot of efforts at trying to find meaning in that life:

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