We strive to build things that last, that endure through all the times and seasons that can sustain, or ravage, life.
No small part of factoring in a stable structure -- be that structure one of stone, or of flesh and spirit, such as a marriage -- is its foundation. If the foundations of our lives and buildings are as strong and as hard as rock, we then can have confidence that what we do or make will last a long time.
History reveals our fear of having things and relationships collapse. We do what we can to make all that we are and build strong and lasting, giving us the secure sense of a sturdy placement in this world.
As a species, we have built millions of walls, dams, magnificent cities, great ships, powerful weaponry and golden rings. These and more testify to our hope of making things last and keeping out anything that poses a threat to life and keeping in what is perceived of benefit to our survival.
I wonder if beneath it all, what we are dealing with is our inability overcome, to conquer, human weakness. Not just human weakness, but the inherent weakness that is built into the very fabric of being that confronts us and challenges us to create something that is stronger, something that can overcome and banish forever this death that eventually brings low our bodies, our buildings, our relationships.
All that we know and have is destined to succumb to its inborn weakness.
I was thinking about this recently, as I pondered the season of Advent. Generations have turned to a belief in a strong and powerful God, one who manifests Himself in power, might and glory and who is stronger than whatever we can imagine.
It is this God who will promise and provide a sure and lasting foundation. We can lean on Him, base our lives and losses on him. It is He who will make all things new, make things last forever.
Whereas, I believe and hope that the God who promises an abundance of foundational material is true, and true to his promises, I am given reason to hope for something different at this time of the year.
It is through the opening in human nature -- the yes of a woman to make vulnerable her body to the desires of God -- that we can learn to trust in weak and mortal foundations.
God came to Mary and was born from her. Though we struggle to rid ourselves of weakness (and in the process have little patience with the weakness of those around us), it seems that God made weakness the point of entry into life, into history. Mary said yes, and from that moment everything and everyone is different, everlasting, imbued with the very life of God.
We do not always see it this way. Maybe the saints do, and some of our best poets. We are too busy trying to perfect things, to realize with our crafts and talents the eternal upgrade to all that we are and have. It will never happen. Things are not made to last.
Only God lasts. This season is the time of year when we can take the time to look at ourselves and our neighbors and learn from what is weak in us, and worthy of love. God loves weakness. He himself was born from it. It was and is the condition of His arrival among us.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.