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The Naive Optimism

We will never, never, ever, ever be satisfied with anything other than God. How's that for an opening line? Did anyone do their homework? If you did, then you know the gross, impossible task of trying to lay the wisdom of Solomon upon our health with a few devotions, and from a ham-n-egg writer to boot. But...we push on.

When I got out of grad school with thesis in hand, I was ready to conquer the world. (I studied the effects of endurance training on muscle size and strength in competitive weightlifters.) That thesis eventually landed me writing gigs with magazines until ultimately, I was the worldwide fitness editor for the most popular muscle magazine in history. And most of you know the story. I wrote a few books, made a name for myself, and the emptiness and hollowness followed. 

And it's that emptiness and hollowness that comes to mind as we travel along the oft jagged and piercing edges of these verses in Ecclesiastes. 

Oh, I did great things: built houses...amassed silver and gold...became greater by far than anyone...I refused my heart no pleasure...Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke (everything was meaningless); nothing was gained under the sun. 
(Ecc 2: 4-11 msg)

— The Teacher

Personally speaking, it was at the peak of my fitness lifestyle and resume that I began to realize the dilemma in my heart and mind; that in my work, there would be no real fulfillment because of the longing placed there by God.  It's a longing placed within every human that ever lived. Indeed, you and I have a burden placed upon us by God that can only be satisfied when HE is pleased and when we are content in pleasing Him.

That's why, like we touched upon yesterday, there's no surprise that we keep such eating, resting and training routines; justifiable as we attempt to make them. We're breaking down. As you read this sentence your body is betraying the efforts you placed upon it 5 minutes, or 5 hours, or 5 days, or even 5 years ago. In its natural delivery of your health, it's saying to you that no matter what you do, load it with protein, fill it with carbs, lift a million pounds of mindless metal for the rest of your life, you will not be able to prevent its demise.

To some of us - and I know it could have been said of me at one point - it's borderline insulting to read this series. It's offensive when someone diminishes the importance of something so important to us. We almost find ourselves coming to the defense of fitness, of striving, of effort and byproduct. We are called to honor God with our bodies, and we easily find refuge in that as justification for week, after week, after week of "time well spent."

Eugene Peterson once wrote, "We read Ecclesiastes to get scrubbed clean from illusion. It challenges the naive optimism that sets a goal that appeals to it and then goes after it with gusto, expecting the result to be a good life."

If I can pass the baton to the final leg of our brief run through a few thoughts from this wise book, it would be with this: Until we allow God's word to expose our complete and total incapacity to realize meaning in our lives apart from God, we will continue to mine bottomless pits. Have you ever needed to be scrubbed from illusion? Ever needed to be pulled from the wreckage - out from under the delusion that you can live your life on your own terms?

-Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Tough stuff, right? Maybe it's just me, but if everything is meaningless according to the wisest person in the Bible aside from Christ, how does this trilogy end? I'd love to use something you say in tomorrow's entry, so please share.