Last week, I was at an event in St. Louis and walked a few blocks to the Gateway Arch. It’s a stunning sight to see in person. On that cloudless morning, the stainless steel arch was gleaming in the reflected sunrise. Standing at 630 feet, it’s the tallest arch ever built, and it’s truly mesmerizing to stand beneath.
But once I had clicked a few dozen pictures of the apex against the brilliant blue of the sky, my eyes and thoughts turned toward the foundation.
The base of the structure isn’t the usual focus of photographs. At first glance, it doesn’t have the appearance of awe and wonder. The twin foundations, in fact, aren’t even visible–they’re underground. Anchoring the arch and delving 60 feet into the bedrock below each leg, massive constructions of reinforced concrete hold everything in place.
Sure, all the parts of the arch work together to keep it standing, and I’m sure I learned about that in high school physics–something about force vectors. But the foundation of the massive Gateway Arch seems to be most crucial: it bears the weight, counters the sway, and locks it in place.
If we want to reach the heights of what it means to be human beings, it seems we need a foundation that bears the weight, counters the sway, and locks us in place.
In my understanding, the highest meaning and purpose of life is to live the divine nature–to live Love. That’s the apex. That seems like a dizzying height and a heavy load. And that seems to need a particularly strong foundation.
I think this is what Jesus means when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” I think he means that he’s the foundation for living the divine Love at the heart of who God is and who we are as God’s children.
I also think that religious folks like me get things awfully wrong when we forget that Jesus is the foundation and that Love is the apex. With the wrong foundation, we can get woefully narrow, particularly unkind, and repulsively cruel.
But when we get it right–when we are intentionally anchored in the foundation and intentionally aiming toward the apex–well, that seems to be when we have the best potential to enliven the world with grace and gift the world with goodness.