I was driving to the post office this morning and happened to be alone in the car which almost never happens. I think most Moms could agree that driving alone can be likened to a great nap, a Hawaiian vacation, a diamond necklace, a shopping spree etc. I'm exaggerating of course but, only a little.
When I am driving alone, I notice that I am able to actually hear myself think. I barely remember what that is like anymore! I'm able to listen to the lyrics of the songs on the radio and not just use them to drown out the shrill whines from the back seat. I am able to observe the scenery around me and I might even notice the flowers popping up alongside the road or the birds soaring gracefully above me. It's a blissful experience to drive alone. Truly, blissful. If you get to drive alone all the time, then you simply cannot understand what I am saying here but, please know that I am not trying to be exclusive. I am oh so happy for you too. I promise.
As I was driving this song, sung Johnny Cash came on the radio...I turned it up extra loud and pondered it's words for a while. I am aware that Johnny didn't actually write this song. Nine Inch Nails wrote and sang it in the 90's. Johnny removed the profanity from their version and added the Crown of thorns and Christian references and imagery, which is why this version is much more personal to me.
It's a song that I have heard many times before but, each time I hear it my spirit is moved. Johnny is a man that so many people love and respect. He was raised on gospel music, in Bible belt country and he endured many hardships in his life from the Great Depression to the traumatic death of his brother and so on. Years later he was introduced to fame and all the troubles that come along with it. He became Hollywood's bad boy and though he created incredible music, his life behind the scenes and often in the spotlight was far from glamorous. He was wild and out of control and he hurt a lot of people on his quest to live a fame and fortune filled life.
In his later years Johnny's health began to fail and I'm sure that some great reflecting took place in those last few years. He had always been a spiritual thinker and a philosopher but, as he got older he seemed to look back on his crazy life and all of the selfish things that he did and realized in great wisdom that in the end it was all just, "an empire of dirt." Everything on this Earth fades in the end and we can't take any of it with us when we go. Even more importantly though is that we can have it all and still have absolutely nothing. We can have just about everything and yet still feel completely empty. We all have eternity etched on our hearts even if we cannot sense it. We have a craving and a yearning for something greater and for something that lasts because we were created for more! The song states that he wishes he could forget all the things that he did and not feel the pain of regret but, he acknowledges that he remembers everything and he cannot change what has been done. He wishes he could start again so that he could keep himself and stay true to the faith that he knew to be true all along. Though it was a rough and painful journey to find his way, in the end, just like the Prodigal son described in scripture (Luke), Johnny Cash found his way back to God.
I love that God gave Johnny the time to grow old and really taste his need for Jesus. God allowed Johnny to weather the storms of life. He allowed him to have greatness, power, women, fame and glory but, the greatest gift that God gave Johnny was the gift of wisdom to see what his life really amounted to. Johnny understood that in the end all the stuff was just an empire of dirt without Jesus. Even though he had it all Johnny got that GOD. IS. THE. MAN.
It was a powerful reminder. Build an empire that lasts forever and don't get swallowed up by an empire that will only turn to dust along with your body when you are gone. Live your life of course! Live freely joyful, abundant, repentant and forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Live for Him. In great love He made you and calls you by name. He is worthy of your praise. And if you don't know him, perhaps you need to know that He won't force himself into your life. Ask him in to your heart and begin a new journey today with Him as your pilot.