Congress has just passed a huge infrastructure bill to improve the systems that make it possible for us to move goods and information as efficiently as possible. Anyone who has driven more than a few hundred miles knows how important it is to have good roads and bridges. Being without power or water for an extended time adds appreciation for the convenience that reliable services provide for us.
I have written about infrastructure before. It still fascinates me. Being in the middle of a major bathroom renovation has made me appreciate it on a micro level even more. Infrastructure is what makes the world work. Building it takes planning, time, skill, and patience. When it works properly, we don’t really notice it. When it breaks, it is disruptive to life and immediately becomes the most important thing on our agendas.
What is true in the physical world often transfers understanding in the spiritual world. Good spiritual infrastructure does not happen on its own. It requires planning, thought, and discipline. When building it, I should seek insight from those who have wisdom and abilities which I lack. No one person, on their own, can design and build a highway, a waste treatment facility, and a high-speed fiber network. But we can all learn enough about them to use and appreciate what they do for us.
This is the reason communities of faith are so vitally important to our lives. They are the conduits for our spiritual infrastructure. Just as with physical infrastructure there will be some that we may want nothing to do with. Yet we all need sewer systems and reliable wiring in our buildings. It is the power of community that there are those doing things we either cannot or will not do so that we can get on with those things we can and will.
Maren Morris released a single in 2019 called “The Bones” using the metaphor of a well-built, but damaged, house to describe a strong relationship. The chorus says,
“When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it rain ‘cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good.”
Just as relationships that build communities need good infrastructure so do individuals. Building a strong interior spiritual life will help us to weather the storms of life. There are some that build a life on façades without the proper preparation underneath. Some get through a lifetime that way without a scratch — most don’t.
St. John of the Cross said concerning those who live a life calling into question holy tranquility, “who will have it wholly occupied with outward duties, that its light may shine before the world: these persons have no conception of the fibers and the unseen root whence the sap is drawn, and which nourish the fruit.” (Spiritual Canticle of the Soul, Stanza 28).
Those things of our life which cannot be seen by others — our infrastructure of inner life and communities of faith — are those things which truly animate us as we live in this world. When visiting places where the infrastructure is not sound, those with eyes to see can tell. Same is true spiritually.
When Jesus finished the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:46-48, ““Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (RSV).
Let’s help each other to build well.