Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rawa Island and Godly Contentment (Ecclesiastes 5:8 - 6:9)

Paradise island, if such taxonomy is applicable to Pulau Rawa (off Mersing in Johor, Malaysia), is replete with cliches:

View from Alang's Bar, Rawa Island, Malaysia
palm-fringed powdery-white beaches, azure clear waters perfect for snorkelling and hovering over fish and coral, young girls with sarongs and hibiscus in their hair, deck chairs and blue-and-white striped beach towels, friendly dogs, tyre-swings hanging from coconut trees, and coconut oil-basted human flesh gently roasting in the sun...

Rawa Safaris Island Resort
Less than 4 hours after boarding the mini-bus from Singapore to Mersing and then a boat from Mersing, we checked-in at Rawa Safaris Island Resort, one of two resorts sharing the tiny island.

Rawa Safaris Island Resort
The nicest accommodation in Rawa Safaris Island Resort.

Alang's Rawa
The nicest accommodation in Alang's Rawa (formerly Le Club - read more about Tunku Ibrahim Alang here).

Rawa Safaris Island Resort
Prettily situated amongst greenery teeming with butterflies (and welcoming clouds of mozzies) and sweet with bird-calls, the hillside huts at Rawa Safaris were basic - a bed, two rattan chairs, a rail for hanging clothes, airconditioning, one power socket and a bathroom with whimsical water pressure and a western toilet,

Breakfast, Rawa Safaris Island Resort
the expectation being that guests would be spending most of their time by the beach. And after filling up at the buffet breakfast, there was indeed energy enough for snorkelling, kayaking, jumping off jetties, and

Water slide, Rawa Island
travelling down the water slide in creative ways immediately imitated by a breathless bevy of kids, when they weren't having these sorts of conversations:
Boy: I've lived in China and I hate China.
Girl: Why?
Boy: China's really lame.
Girl (Chinese): How dare you!
Boy: Why, they don't even worship God!
[Cue: water fight]
Flippers at the lunch table, Rawa Safaris Island Resort
All meals were provided buffet-style just a few steps from the beach so when it got too hot, we went in to lunch, dropping flippers and goggles and snorkels by the table and

estern food at lunch, Rawa Safaris Island Resort Asian food at lunch, Rawa Safaris Island Resort
noshing on very decent Western and Asian food while having teary talks about the faithfulness of Christian parents, the great privilege of growing up in a biological family of believers, the great and faithful work in Australian universities,

Margaux at Rawa Safaris Island Resort
interrupted only by little French girls called Margaux singing long French songs.

Alang's Rawa Alang's Rawa
After lunch, there was the choice of beach volleyball, or paddle ball in the water or frolicking with black-tipped sharks, then popping into the restaurant and bar at Alang's Rawa for snacks and cold beers

Alang's Rawa
while lazily watching beagles chew up Havianas ("Someone should stop him" said J helpfully, before nestling into his folded arms for a snooze).

Rawa Island Rawa Island
We topped that up with a takeaway smoothie for lying under the shade, reading a good book, discussing the theology of work and the possibility of tchoukball clinic evangelism before more afternoon napping.

Sunset, Rawa Island Barbecue dinner, Rawa Safaris Island Resort
After a leisurely wash-up, we sat and watched the gorgeous sunset before heading in to a barbecue ("Saturdays only") dinner.

Drinks, Alang's Bar, Rawa
Stuffed to the gills, a jetty stroll preceded drinks under the amazing vast canopy of stars and talk about conversions through Christmas parties, and some planning for the corporate future.

Money cannot buy the rare jewel of contentment, nor the ability to enjoy life. It is only in the context of our relationship with God that we can rejoice in the good things in life because we know they are gifts from God, just like (though much more than) a mixtape of songs put together by someone who loves you is far more enjoyable than the same songs compiled by iTunes' Genius:
  • Because we know God, we can enjoy whatever wealth and possessions God has given us (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20), We can be satisfied and enjoy his good gifts without expecting or depending on these things themselves for satisfaction. After all, no one can ensure that one's riches will be secure - one bad business venture could bring the corporate mogul so far down he would not even be able to provide for his children (Ecclesiastes 5:13-16). If one relied on this for one's security, surely one would be always under a cloud of worry and when things went wrong, sick with anger (Ecclesiastes 5:17). In the end, there would be no enjoyment from all one's toil.
  • Even if one's riches were intact, there would be no satisfaction from money. More cost outlay would be necessary to maintain one's growing possessions and in any case, there would never be enough money for the one who tries to find satisfaction in his wealth (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12). Money is inherently valueless but if one is otherwise deluded, one will amass more and more of it in the hope of gaining just some sliver of satisfaction.
  • But the fact is that the very ability to enjoy wealth, possessions and honour is given by God (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2). A man with everything anyone could ever wish for but without the ability to enjoy these things is worse off than a stillborn child. He lives a wretched discontented life without ever finding satisfaction and then goes to his death still despairing (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6).
So the Qoholet strongly advises learning rightful contentment in life.

Q: Do we think ourselves fairly satisfied and content in life?
Q: What is the basis of our satisfaction in life? How would our first answer change if:
  • we lose the ability to work?
  • there is little result from all our hard work?
  • our job causes us to lose the esteem of family and friends and the general public?
  • our work does not suit what we think are our personality and talents?
  • we find out that we are much more poorly paid than our peers and have fallen behind in our chosen career path?
May we give up all attempts to rest our love and hopes on something other than God, for that way lies a terrible life of vexation, cares, sleeplessness, despair and then death, because any object other than our Creator is ultimately empty, a vanity, vapour.

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