Many years ago, a friend gave me the little book, Poverty of Spirit, by Johannes Metz. A short read, but one you want to take your time and savor. One of the ideas Metz had was there are various poverties with which we are afflicted.
I was left thinking of one of those poverties today as I stood waiting for my wife to pick me up at a nearby “men’s mall” (as a fellow male shopper named it, i.e., a large farm/ranch/clothing store). I had to wait for over two hours as we are down to one vehicle now, and in the spirit of simplicity along with ecomonic reality, we have not replaced my broken-down pickup. The poverty to which I am referring today though is the poverty of provisionality and finiteness.
Without a cell phone to call, over 20 miles from my home, and with the outdoor temperatures hitting a high of 2 degrees above zero, I had no choice but wait at the exit door of the facility and watch people enter and exit.
And I thought,
“So much of what we do seems provisional and limited. We need do it over and over again. Despite the wealth that we enjoy (yes we are rich, even with today’s economic problems), we are slaves to the provisional, the finite. We must eat over and over again. We shave everyday. We must sleep each day. We must comb our hair, and brush our teeth each day, for what we did yesterday doesn’t last. We buy new furnace screens and light bulbs and gallons of milk because they don’t last or they get used up. And this is what life is all about for so many of us. We enter and we exit whatever we are doing and are about.”
The richness of the spiritual life lay in the intersect between the finite and the eternal. The richness of the God’s gifts, his grace, redeems that which is finite, provisional and repetitive. Those who have studied contemplative spirituality have come to know this. Those living a contemplative-oriented life live this as they go about every day completing provisional and finite tasks with a richness of the divine peeking through.
A great mystery in Christianity is how God himself took our poor provisional and finite selves and divinized it through the power of Jesus in the Spirit. We celebrate this at Christmas.