I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all 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. Ecclesiastes 2, verses 10-11.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be a celebrity? No, this isn’t going to be another one of those guilt-riding tomes where I posit how great celebrities have it but how vacant their lives are. Though these verses speak directly to that condition, that isn’t where I’m going today. Instead, I’m asking the question: wouldn’t it be nice to be a celebrity? I’m writing this from a nice hotel in Edina, Minnesota. It’s not the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, but it beats most other places as well. This week, I’m driving a rental car that has less than 1000 miles on it and it still even has the new car smell, even if it is a Chevrolet. My job site is at a health plan in north Minneapolis, and to get to it I get to fly every other week on somebody else’s dime. In my wallet there’s a corporate credit card with no limit and I can pretty much eat wherever I choose with no questions asked.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be a celebrity? Are you kidding me? Compared to how most people live, I am a celebrity. This isn’t the life I imagined when I was 18 or even when I was 30: it’s much better. Many of the things I take for granted are luxuries that others dream about having. Without getting the big head, I’ll say I’m very thankful for it…
…mainly because it’s meaningless if the only thing I’m in it for is to glorify myself and congratulate myself on my good choices and posh circumstances. Roll out the red carpet and line up the paparazzi because I’m headed down the catwalk. And that’s as good as it gets. It doesn’t get any better than that, and if you think about that statement, maybe it’s because it can’t get worse.
Shame, don’t you think? That’s a real crying shame. I mean, to have that many blessings and not see that, without the proper mode of spirit, they’re just window dressing for what’s real in life. And what’s real in life is God. Fancy yourself a free-thinker all you want: when your thoughts freely think back to the times you’ve been happiest I’m betting they’re the times you’ve been at peace. Do you honestly think that peace just happens? Do you honestly think that love just happens? Do you honestly think that mercy just happens?
Here’s the shocker: yes, they just do, when your heart belongs to the Almighty, that is. He just is those things: peace, love, mercy, and also patience, understanding, wisdom, and strength.
And without that, all the strolling down that catwalk is simply marking time.
Know something else? The times in my life when I haven’t denied my heart any pleasure? They were the times I felt worst. During the times when I thought it was all about me, that I deserved A, B or C, or that I simply gave up on what I knew best and indulged in whatever I wanted, well, those were the times when I felt dirtier than a dirt sandwich.
So I sit here in my semi-luxurious room and think back to some of the fleabag hotels I stayed in while I was TDY to Korea; real rat traps. Or the hotel in southern China: a bug-infested hovel (think about that) with no indoor plumbing. And there was the hotel in Jinja, where the bugs were as big as birds and it never really got below 85 and steamy; after all, it was near the Equator. All of those exotic places weren’t as nice as this one and this one is in a common, ordinary American city (that just happens to be a stone’s throw from where I lived when I was a kid). Yet this and those places alike are meaningless.
I’ve lived an extraordinary life so far. I’ve done a year at sea, watched nuclear missiles fly (as well as space-bound rockets), fathered three great children, traveled around the world, been married up and down to an uncommonly patient and extraordinary lady, eaten at some of the finest steakhouses in the world, been to 49 of 50 states, worked with (literally) thousands of different people and known many, many more, I have laughed and loved and worshipped and lost and found again.
And none of it, not a single minute of it, is worth anything unless I first realize that not a single minute of it is about me. It’s Him; it’s all Him. Without that realization and that saving knowledge, I’m as hopeless as Solomon, who had so much more than I do. I’d be as hopeless as a man facing down Satan, knowing he’s already given up.
I’d be like a celebrity, riding from club to club in my stretch limo, primping in the mirror, smiling for the camera, and trying to hide the tears.