First, we are unprepared. The specter of a major earthquake is always lurking out there somewhere and we know that it is entirely possible that such an event could easily cause a lengthy interruption in power, water and food delivery. This recent incident demonstrated that should that happen the Myatt family would have some problems. I have told myself several times in the past that I should pay attention to warnings from government agencies and become better prepared for such an eventuality, but I’ve never done anything about it. I have no desire to become a fringe survivalist, packing my garage full of military MRE’s (meals ready to eat), but prudence tells me I ought to at least make some effort to do better than I have to date. I imagine that makes me a member of a large tribe, all of whom are thinking the same thing.
Third, I realized how much I take for granted the simple pleasure of being able to walk into a room and turn the lights on. During the blackout I found myself repeatedly walking into rooms and hitting a light switch, which, of course, accomplished nothing. What a rude awakening to discover that not only did the lights not work, but neither did the stove, the refrigerator, the television, the stereo and all the other electrical gadgets in our home. Hmm, speaking of that, I probably need to reset the sprinkler system. My point is, this event reminded me that we are very blessed to have electricity in our home. I should be more grateful!
Fourth, I reflected on an experience we had in the grocery store that reminded me about the nature of humanity. Several hours after the lights went out we decided we should at least take a shot at going to a grocery store to prepare for however long we would be without electricity. I figured the store would be closed, but to my surprise it wasn’t. However, when we entered the store I discovered we were not the only ones who thought they should stock up. Longest lines to check out I’ve ever seen in a grocery store. I’m talking Great Wall of China long. We got our supplies then got in line and hunkered down for the duration. It was a loooong wait. While standing in it, both Laurie and I got hungry. Very hungry. Then I noticed a display of Wheat Thins. Perfect. We picked up a box and opened it, figuring we would pay for it when we finally got to the check out stand.
This is where human nature showed up. I was surprised at how well everyone in the store was weathering the storm. Everyone was amazingly patient in a trying situation. Not only were they patient, but they sort of pulled together. People were talking to each other even though perfect strangers. Everyone was trying to make light (excuse the pun) of the situation, keeping a sense of humor and encouraging each other. The people behind us in line had opened up a box of candy they were going to buy and they shared their candy with us. We shared our Wheat Thins with them. It was evidence of the fact that people long for community. When difficulty forces us out of our manic schedules, makes us slow down and presents us with obstacles, we have a natural tendency to join together and support each other.
I have heard from a number of people that one effect of the blackout was it pushed people outside their homes. They congregated out on the sidewalks in the neighborhoods and on their front lawns and visited with one another. I have heard from more than one person that they kind of appreciated the opportunity to just…be neighbors. We regret the fact that it takes something like the blackout to make that happen because most of us enjoy connecting with other people. There’s just something…healthy, something heartwarming about it. It feels good. It feels good because we are created for relationship. We saw that in the book of Genesis. God has built that into us. Many people will resolve that they should slow down and make more of an effort to relate to their neighbors and enjoy community. Nice idea, but it won’t happen. Not for most of us. We’ll get caught up in the race again and go back to our old ways. I hope to resist that tendency. It’s not just about neighbors. It’s about deepening our connection with people in general. Yes, I want to reach out more to my neighbors, but I also want to make the community that is our church even stronger. I want to develop even deeper relationships with the wonderful people that make up our church.
That brings me to my last observation. It is that my life is awfully noisy. By that I don’t just mean that it is full of sound, but that it is loaded with distraction. Yes, there is the noise of civilization, but also I realized during the blackout how much in my life demands my attention. Telephones, computer, television, automobiles, and a busy schedule keep my brain churning at high speed most of the time. The power outage forced most of it to grind to a halt. Laurie and I went for a walk that evening around 9 P.M. and I was struck with how quiet it was outside. Mostly during those hours we found ourselves reduced to talking to people, reading by candlelight, and just looking at the night sky.
I thought about how life must have been for so many centuries when people did not have electric power. I suspect they would have had a great deal more time to just be with people and to just…listen. The frantic pace and the noise of modern life can easily drown out God’s voice. It can easily keep us from listening even to our own inner voice. Our Lord tells us to be still and know that he is God. That is not easy to do in a society where being still is often regarded as wasting your time. How rarely I sit in a quiet place and just think. Just listen. Just reflect. It is often in those times that I most sense God and connect with him. That is frequently when we hear his voice. It’s kind of like taking a big breath of air and relaxing. The blackout reminded me I need to do that more often. It’s not easy, but it will be worth the effort.