Fourteenth day of Advent: power and weakness

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am thinking about power and weakness today.

I am thinking about power and weakness because of that time-worn phrase, money is power. Money equals power. Money equals power equals money, which equals power.

Yes. That mathematical formula makes sense to me.

I am thinking about this formula today because of my car.

My car that I drive to and from work; that I drive on assignment; that faithfully carried me to California and back; that I drive to my friends’ houses on Friday nights; that I drive to Sunday brunch; that I christened John Russell after one of my literary heroes (see Hombre, by Elmore Leonard); that car that I love, is sick. As I told my dad, “John Russell has a stomach ache.”

In other words, he needs a new transmission.

In other words, start emptying the savings account.

I have been saving money in that account for some time. It’s a few dollars here and a few more there, tucked aside for a dream, a deep desire, something I’ve wanted for a long, long time. Emptying it, I can’t help feeling like Carl and Ellie in Up, who can never save enough money for their trip to Paradise Falls because various life expenses keep cropping up. Without the money which is the power, will I ever accomplish the dream?

It’s Advent, so I’m thinking more than usual about the Christmas story, and as I’m thinking about the Christmas story and feeling sad about the loss of the money and the loss of the power and my poor, sick car parked in the driveway outside, my thoughts settle on Herod.

Herod, King of Judaea, is the epitome of power. But Herod, despite his money and his power and his being king of Judaea, is not the main character of the Christmas story. He’s merely there to juxtapose Christ, who’s the main character, and who also happens to be the epitome of weakness.

Christ, born as a vulnerable baby. Christ, born into the weakness of poverty. Christ, who happens to be God, who is all-powerful, made all-weak.

What do I make of this? It certainly doesn’t fit my formula. It makes me pause and think.

Maybe the formula is right. Maybe, having money means having power. Maybe, one way to achieve my dream is to have the money to achieve the dream. Maybe, I won’t ever achieve the dream without the money. Maybe.

But this power only goes so far. This power is broken by the real power, the power that’s so powerful that it can be embodied in the weakest of beings and not be destroyed. This real power eclipses the other power.

Okay, so I’m still a little sad about John Russell and the savings account. Okay, it’s also not the end of the world. Okay, when I think about it a little more, the dream is still attainable. Okay.

But okay, also: I’m reminded that, in the long run, the formula is moot. I’m reminded that, if money equals power, money does not equal real power. Money can play a part in real power, or not; real power trumps all.

I share this story with a friend on the phone today, and she reminds me of a verse. I’ll share it with you, too.

See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the filed, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you?

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