We were without power all day. I noticed it first in the wee hours of the morning, when Scout scuffled into our room because she was cold, and it continued through a dark breakfast huddled around candles with me smiling in thanks that I happened to have made a batch of Gingersnap muffins the day before. I kept thinking it would soon be over, the lights all snapping back on and water running again, as it often does when these outages occur-- planned and somewhat short as they usually are.
But today was different, a mistake apparently, and so the powerlessness dragged on... into the afternoon, as dishes piled up without a rinse and the laundry waited patiently, the house turning a bit more frigid than normal without the air conditioning units to take the chill off. In the late afternoon, when it appeared there may not be a near and present end, I started to fret a little about all the meat sitting in the now thawing freezer, and the milk and perishables hanging out in an increasingly not so cold refrigerator. The toilets would need flushing soon. We licked the sticky rice residue off Scout's fingers. I found a few more blankets and we cuddled and took turns singing versions of Hark the Herald as we waited for the boys to return home.
And then, just as we all bundled up and left for an evening of dinner out and a shop for warmer coats and shoes, we got a call that the power was finally back on. To do without electricity is a small inconvenience really, and you know that even as you are walking through it, the centuries of people who have lived without power playing through your mind, telling you it shouldn't set you back as much as it does.
Thinking back over it, as little as we accomplished today in the way of cleaning or emails, or preparing food for the family, I am thankful for how little it really ruffled me. Towards the end of the day I was surely starting to wonder if we would have to find temporary shelter in a friends house for no other reason than plumbing purposes, but overall I didn't reach the level of frustration that I can often succumb to. I sat a little more. I read some things that fed and encouraged me. I nearly finished the second in a pair of fingerless gloves. My girl sat on my lap for a whole half an hour... though she tries to do that all day long when she's not running up and down the walls. I watched my three sit and read together in the flickering candlelight, knowing for certain they would all need glasses as a result of it, but cherishing the moment just the same.
And without trying to overdo it, I couldn't help but think of the irony, that as I sat power-less all day long, I had read all through the day of how the powerless are just the kind of people God visits.
"No powerful person dares to approach the manger... for this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught."
And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant...
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud int he thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly..."
The theme for this second week of Advent is "How Long, O Lord?" which is a move away from the hopeful forward look of last week's "Come, Lord Jesus!" And it is right that we lament, looking at the world around us.
"Around us we see greed and drivenness. In the news during these days of "peace on earth, good will to all," the ironies abound: war, poverty, violence, political machinations and disease. Our own vulnerabilities and temptations are heightened as well: loneliness, depression, addiction, materialism. So we groan within ourselves, "How long, O Lord, is life going to be like this? Even as we cry out we remember that evil in the world- and in us- merits God's judgment. His coming will bring fearsome but welcome justice [note: a great talk on judgment and our need for it in an appropriate and well thought out manner by Tim Keller can be found here and here]. But also glory, a glory greater than our current suffering. So we lament the darkness in the world, the sin in ourselves and the judgment that will fall. But we do not succumb to despair. Ours is a hopeful lament as we prepare for the glory to be revealed."
~Bobby Gross from Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God (chapter on Advent: Week Two)
Yes well, that is what I was thinking on today as the literal, physical, and philosophical world around me was going on and on about powerlessness. Now all is back to normal so tomorrow I will bake cookies and bread and write about Santa Claus and Jingle Bells... but not really.