On the outside, conservative commentator David Brooks seemed to have it all: New York Times columnist, TV political analyst, and best-selling author. Inside, however, something was missing. In 2013, after 30 years of marriage, divorce rocked his world. He also entered the “empty nester” phase of life. “One of the things I learned is that when you’re in one of those hard moments, you can either be broken or broken open,” Brooks told CBN News.
For Brooks, it led to soul searching and renewal that he writes about in his new book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.
“I think the first mountain is the mountain of career, the one society wants us to climb and people find it unsatisfying,” says Brooks. “I’ve achieved way more career success than I thought I ever would but did I have an all-consuming purpose? Did I have a deep connection? No, I didn’t. So, you go down the valley and then when you’re in the valley you find your bigger, larger self basically and then you realize you’re ready for a larger climb. If the first mountain is about acquisition, how do I get stuff for me, the second mountain is about contribution, how can I love others.”
“I Had Two Stories Running Through My Head”
As a child, he had always heard about God’s love. Brooks is Jewish but also had major Christian influences. “I had two stories running through my head,” said Brooks. “The Jewish story which is an exodus story. We cross the wilderness, we escape oppression and we come to the land of milk and honey and then the Jesus story. I went to chapel every morning, sang in the choir and I had those two stories in my head during my early life.”
The Gradual Process of Coming to Know God
After his divorce, an attempt at self-discovery led to a personal walk with God, in the most unusual place. Brooks remembers it perfectly. “I was walking around [New York City’s] Penn Station and it’s like the ugliest place on the face of the earth and I happened to be in one of those subway tunnels and it occurred to me that everyone around me has a soul and their soul is either getting sanctified or it’s getting degraded.” But Brooks saw even more meaning. “There’s another understory which is how our souls are doing at any moment, how close or far we feel from God. So once I became aware of that hidden layer, then I realized I’m a faithful person and the way I want to describe it was that it was not some blinding revelation, there was no moment, like, ‘Road to Damascus.’ there was no epiphany. It was just a very gradual process.”
The reading of the New Testament, especially the Book of Matthew, changed his spiritual outlook. “I feel more Jewish than I have ever felt before because I used to be culturally Jewish but now I think the covenant is real,” Brooks said.
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