We have ancient, high-mileage, “decaying-when-we-bought-‘em” cars and vans. We also have a inclined driveway — about 10, maybe 15 degrees. One winter, our behemoth Chevy Express slid down that iced-over driveway and into the street overnight. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and the Express now stays curbside every winter.
The other problem associated with our vehicle/driveway combo has to do with gas gauges. At street level, the Chevy and the Toyotas will show a quarter-tank full, but put them up on the inclined driveway, and the needles will drop to empty. Late-model vehicles don’t have this problem because the sensors are located lower down in the tanks. Older vehicles, like ours, are prone to angle-sensitive gauge fluctuations.
It tricks me every time – especially if I’m late to something. “Seriously?” I’ll say to myself as I’m pulling out into the cul-de-sac. “I don’t have time to stop for gas!” Yet, by the time I’m turning into the Speedway, the needle has popped up to the actual fuel level. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to remember that I must be off the incline and flat on the ground to get an accurate reading.
There’s a parallel here with the spiritual life. When our day-to-day lives are tilted or off center, we’ll tend to feel empty and anxious, regardless of the actual state of our souls. That’s one of the benefits of our purple seasons of preparation — Lent especially, but now Advent as well. They’re times to get un-tilted and level, which then allows us to take honest account of our interior resources and replenish accordingly.
We even had readings last Sunday toward that end — in Baruch for example: “For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground” (Bar 5.7). Then, in the Gospel, John the Baptist quotes Isaiah and calls for the same: “Prepare the way of the Lord…. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Lk 3.4-5).
When we catch our spiritual breath during this Advent season of waiting, and we find rest on an even interior plane, we can better hear St. Paul’s insistence that “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1.6). We’re living the Faith; we’re receiving the sacraments and turning our hearts toward Jesus. We have more gas in our tanks than we think.
Take time these last days of Advent to pause on the season’s liturgical level ground and give thanks. We’ve got a ways to go, and the Lord will provide all the sustenance we need to get there.