Wednesday, August 12, 2009

D.C. Reflections Part 1: Living in (arguably) the most powerful city in the world

As my second summer in D.C. comes to a close, I have a few departing thoughts to share over the next few days.

To anyone who has visited, read about, or lived in the District of Columbia it is obvious that it is a unique place. It truly is a powerful place, with powerful people. This fact defines everything from the ornaments that decorate the city’s landscape to the populace that walk its streets. Young, ambitious, and intelligent people fill the subway cars and office buildings. Just like Rome centuries ago, this city’s architecture and monuments set it apart from any other cityscape in the nation. Power emanates from buildings that stand prominently in view, from the Capitol at the head of the Mall to the Pentagon across the Potomac.

I had one incredible opportunity to view this city from an uncommon location, the dome of the Capitol building (Thanks Matt Stone!). From that vantage point, William Clayton took the picture in the upper right (if you want to see a larger image go to his website: As I stood up there with the Statue of Freedom herself and let my eyes wonder to familiar landmarks as far away as the National Cathedral I was struck by the thought that this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but reminded of something else far more important. Power and politics wax and wane, careers blossom and then disappear, friendships draw near but often move on, yet one thing never changes. God reigns eternally.

How this affects my life is a constant struggle for me to understand. After spending pages and pages crying out, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity,” the author of Ecclesiastes concludes in two powerful sentences:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

The man who wrote these words presided over a thriving kingdom, commanded the worlds respect as its wisest king, and enjoyed almost every pleasure the world had to offer. Yet, he called it all vanity without God. Everything I’ve done or accomplished (which isn’t much, by the way) is not measured by the power I amass, or even the fulfillment I find in it, but only by whether it is good or evil. And the metric of good or evil is not something legislated by congress, measured by an expert, or decided by the majority population. No, it is God who “will bring every act to judgment” on the final day.

Perhaps you do not believe any of this is true. Perhaps you find it unfair or abstract that some other being decides the measure of your life’s worth. Fine. But, if it is not true than what? How do you choose to live? What do you measure your life by? Power? Relationships? Fame? How do you know it is not all vanity? Think on that.

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