A week ago Saturday I was working in my office at church when a terrible storm blew through. Eventually the power went out. Though daytime, it was so dark I really couldn’t see to do anything, so I decided to go home.
As I turned onto my street to go home, there was yellow tape blocking the way; I had to park a block from my house. I could see a large tree limb that had fallen and an electrical line snaking down the middle of the street. I learned from neighbors that a transformer had blown and there had even been a fire. Once home, I discovered that we were without power. A while later we learned we were the only house in our neighborhood without power.
For some reason this experience spoke to me. I was without power and had no ability to fix what needed to be fixed. I couldn’t move the wire or restore power. All I could do was wait for someone else to come to do what needed to be done. I figured it would be days before the power company would get around to restoring our power because we were a single house. What was interesting to me was that I didn’t feel anxious or concerned. Actually, I remembered the many people who were without power for so long earlier this summer when an even worse storm blew through. And I was aware that humankind lived without electricity for millennia and people still do in many places around the world. This is life. There really was nothing I could do except wait until someone came to fix it.
Being without power at work and home resonated with another kind of powerless I am feeling—an awareness of my inability to change or fix anything. This actually was a great gift because it helped me to realize the need for a deep inner letting go of my human striving. That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything, but there is a way of arranging my life to let go and to wait on God to do what only God can do. I feel very peaceful about this and grateful to name my place on my journey.
One of the most interesting aspects of this experience of being without power was that letting go opened me to recognize and receive gifts of grace. I noticed that the storm brought a change from the oppressive heat and humidity and ushered in the brisk, cool temperatures of fall—a real reason to give thanks because we didn’t have electricity for air conditioning or fans. Our neighbors invited our family over for dinner, and we enjoyed a time together that we would not have had otherwise. They loaned us battery-powered lanterns to use in the darkness.
By 3:00 p.m. the following day, there were trucks on our street working on the problem. But they were not from our local power company. Rather they had traveled from Richmond and North Carolina to come help those without power. We had power again days before I expected to because people went out of their way to help the helpless. In the midst of my own sense of powerlessness, I could see the gifts of grace God was extending to us accomplishing for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves. I am grateful.
The truth is we are all more powerless than we believe we are. We were created to be people who are dependent on God and the resources he promises to give us. Living in an independent and affluent culture can cause us to forget that. Sometimes dark and difficult circumstances bring us to a deeper awareness of our own powerlessness—illnesses, grief, a broken relationship, loss of a job, or maybe something far less painful or traumatic like a power outage. It is helpful to name where we are and to remember that God promises to always be with us. His grace is always sufficient accomplishing for us what we cannot accomplish on our own. He will help us—not always in the ways we want or expect, but he will lead and guide, heal and transform, renew and strengthen us as we wait on him to do what only he can do.