I start out most days with a shot of wheatgrass and fresh juice (carrot or orange) or a fruit smoothie. After inhaling a great deal of smoke a few days ago, these rituals become more important as I detoxify my system of the fog of burnt plastic in my blood and lungs that would surely cause more cancer in lab rats than Sweet 'N Low. A few years ago I started my mornings with a few Dr Peppers, so this has been a major shift in my life. I now see what I put in my mouth as a spiritual issue and am changing my diet to reflect my newfound theological position, with a few exceptions. I don't eat pig anymore, unless I'm in Memphis because I can't turn down Memphis-style pork ribs. I have considered becoming a vegetarian, but we travel to Philadelphia often and I love cheesesteaks too much. So I cut out most processed foods and have switched to more natural and organic products.
My cell rings before I leave my younger brother Robbie's house (which is where my family slept last night), because the fire restoration service needs me to let them back into our apartment. They are boxing up everything we own and sorting the things that can be cleaned from what must be thrown away. The stench of the apartment gives me a headache within minutes of walking through the door. Watching people mill through all of your possessions seems surreal and a bit depressing. It seems hard for our 21-month-old Hanna to understand why we don't go into our apartment. She will stand there and point, saying, "Hanna." Yes, that is Hanna's house, but we won't be living there, or reading those books, or playing with those toys for a while.
I planned to meet with Bob Swan today because I'm speaking at his church this weekend. I know very little about him except that he is a veteran youth minister, a bit of a maverick, and has great taste in music. He first called me because he saw an interview I did with Scott Stapp from the band Creed (you can read that interview at youngleader.org). Scott is a great songwriter and is likely a better theologian than most of the pastors at I know. He is on a very sincere faith journey and has become a friend I respect a great deal. Anyhow, we met at Ziggy's Health Grill, where you can get some of the best sweet-potato fries on this planet. Bob was not able to make it because his wife is having her second treatment of chemotherapy for breast cancer. My difficult week has a new perspective.
Bob's associate, Scott, was there in his place. We discuss the book of Ecclesiastes, which I will be teaching. It is the diary of King Solomon … a man the Bible says is the richest and wisest to have ever lived. He writes a very honest diary of his journey to find meaning apart from God. Chronicling his pursuit of academic knowledge, pleasure, and advancement. He says:
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this is the reward for all of my labor. Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
This is a man who had sex with more women than Wilt Chamberlain ever dreamed of or Bill Clinton is accused of, acquired more riches than Bill Gates (after tax), and was a king who brought Isreal to new wealth and prosperity. But it all left him feeling empty and alone. Nothing had meaning apart from God.
I know the feeling. I think if I owned one more object, had one more sexual experience or worldly pleasure, or achieved a certain level of success that everything would be right. I'll meditate on that tonight and spend a quiet evening somewhere with my family.