Nothing like a few days without electricity to get a person thinking. The saga of 2011 has continued this week. After a rare 5.8 earthquake in Virginia, we were hit with a tropical storm which seemed to have surprised everyone although it had been forecast for well over a week. In the aftermath of the storm, the power company did its best to restore power to the neighborhood that I live in as well as the other surrounding neighborhoods. We were without power for just over 48 hours.
In some ways, I was surprised at how much the lack of power impacted me. I guess a better way to say it is that the things that I expected would bother me were not the ones which really did. I was more consumed with losing all of the food in both of my refrigerators than I was with having air conditioning.
Even as I read that last sentence, I realize the gravity of what it means. I didn't say refrigerator, but I used the plural, because we have two. Wow! Do I really have a right to complain? How dare I even think about it? The conveniences of life were briefly taken away from me and there are people who are living without these "conveniences" every day of their lives. Do we fully understand how much we have and how many privileges we have?
Storms in life have the potential for throwing a wrench in our plans. They inconvenience us. For some, they do more than that. All along the path of the hurricane, there are stories of the damage that it caused. Some people even lost their lives. As I drove out of my driveway, I saw the bradford pear tree that once stood in my yard. It was now laying across the road having done no damage but inconveniencing me. I drove down the road and came to the entrance of my subdivision. As I looked across the street, I saw that two large trees has come down right on top of the house across the street. The roof was destroyed and in major need of repair. Did I really have a right to complain?
As I drove around and assessed the damage, I continued to count my blessings. I didn't have power, I had lost a tree, and there was a very small leak in my house, but overall, I was fortunate. I had withstood the storm. My house was still standing. My family was safe. Aren't those the blessings that I need to be taking into account every moment?
We gathered for church on Sunday, even without electricity. In some ways, I was more excited about the potential for the services without electricity than I would have been had power been restored. In fact, power was restored between the services and I simply walked to the back of the sanctuary, turned off the lights, and pretended that nothing had ever happened. We gathered together as a community of faith and worshipped without power. And it was good.
Over and over in 2011, I have been forced to unplug and restart. Circumstances in life that have been out of my control have forced me to change things around. Medical emergencies. Cancer diagnoses. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. They are outside of my control. I can do nothing to change them. My frustration over their inconvenience is futile, it won't change anything. All I can do is adapt, move on, and restart.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." It's hard to think about being joyful in the midst of trials and inconveniences. But joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is based upon circumstances, joy is not. Experiencing joy comes from hope, just like what Paul says. If I were to base my joy on the things that happen throughout life which inconvenience me, I would be gravely disappointed. There is a bigger picture to be seen, there are greater blessings that outweigh these inconveniences.
I keep laughing to myself throughout this year that I cannot say, "What next?" Whenever I think I have had about as much as I can possibly take, something else happens. My perspective needs to change though. If I think that I can handle all of this and that I can maneuver through all of these storms in my own strength, I am grossly mistaken. I am still standing because of the grace of God. My family still has me because of grace. I am incapable of handling this on my own, and that is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I am stronger for being able to admit that.
God has blessed me beyond compare with many things. I have a family, a house, a community of faith, and some really incredible friends. I have experienced the love of Jesus Christ in a very real way. Just those few things are more than many people have or experience.
Today, I wake up and look at my day as a restart. There is only what is ahead of me. I can look behind me, but I can't rest on what's there or allow my past failures to dictate what is in front of me. I am blessed and today, like Joshua, I can choose who I will serve. We all have that choice for today. Who will we serve, what will we do, will we be grateful. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, not with our own strength, but only with the strength of the One who saves us. Every day!