IVP - Strangely Dim - The Power of No Power

August 24, 2007

The Power of No Power

I'm not sure how the weather is where you all are, but it's been a little wild in Chicago the last few days. If you like water, skip out on Hawaii and come visit us instead. We have plenty. And, if Benny Franklin were still alive, we'd be his favorite city--lightning for hours on end.

What we're a little short on, unfortunately, is electricity, at least on my lovely block and in a few of the nearby suburbs. When my sister and I arrived home at our apartment yesterday, the power was out. And when we got home from Caribou after meeting friends in the evening, the power was out. And when we woke up this morning--the power was out. Thankfully, we like candles. A lot.

I'll admit, not having power is inconvenient. Food in our freezer and fridge could spoil. It also takes longer to do things in the dark. And, of course, there are many things we just can't do at all: cook dinner, iron (though I'm not so upset about that one), read, charge cell phones, watch TV (which usually wouldn't bother us much but is particularly disappointing this week since we happen to be in the middle of season three of Lost . . .)

I'm trying to see it as an "adventure." If you're Erik Weihenmeyer (you know him; he's the one who's blind, who climbed Mt. Everest and reached the top), power outages do not adventure make. But if you're as fond of routine and predictability as I am, just having to take a different way home from work can qualify as an exciting escapade. (You're in awe of how thrilling my life sounds, I know.) So a power outage could definitely fit into the "adventure" category. Or it could just be pure inconvenience and put me in a bad mood. My perspective affects my response, my attitude.

I was reminded of this yesterday as I was sitting in the local Secretary of State's office in the dark, waiting for the power to come back on (it didn't) after driving through a torrential storm to get to the Secretary of State's office before it closed. (Did I mention that power outages are inconvenient?) There was a young girl there with her parents; they were already there when I arrived, so they had obviously been waiting in the dark longer. I wondered, as I watched the girl, if she even noticed that the power was out. She played with the rope designating where lines should form. She chattered. She sang happy birthday. From all appearances, she might have thought this was the "fun family outing" for the day--not an inconvenient power outage that kept her parents waiting in line much longer than they expected. Watching her, you'd wonder what you really do need electricity for after all, since you certainly don't need lights and computers to sing happy birthday.

So, in an effort to gain perspective and stave off the bad mood, here's one comfort I take from her example, and from all weather-related disturbances like Chicago summer storms and winter blizzards that interrupt my normal routine: I'm relieved to discover that I'm not so tied to electricity that I can't make do without, and I'm not so dependent on activity that I can't simply sit in a dark Secretary of State's office, waiting and watching. In our work-driven, frenzy-paced culture, I love that there are forces that make us stop--and there's nothing we can do about it. It does my control-thirsty senses good to remember that really, I never had power, and actually, I'm not in control, and truthfully, right now--without electricity--I still have far, far more than most of the people in the world.

Tonight I may return home to a dark apartment. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Will I vote for the presidential candidate who proposes banning electricity to start paying off the national debt? Probably not.

But is this power outage good for me? Yes. And can I still sing? Yes. And will I have gained some perspective on my life when it's over? Yes. It's so good, in fact, that you should come visit. You can help my sister and me eat up our food, you can sit on our couch and chat with us, or listen to the quiet.

We'll leave a candle on for you.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at August 24, 2007 2:36 PM Bookmark and Share


Beautiful, Lisa, beautiful. Makes me thankful again that I share a cubicle wall with wise you.

Comment by: Taryn at August 24, 2007 5:05 PM

A great illustration of Paul's learning to be content whatever the circs. Has been a reeal encouragement this very difficult day here.

Comment by: Gran at August 27, 2007 2:54 PM

Strangle Dim... or is it "dark". LOL
Miss you to pieces, we didn't have power 18-19th...during Jake's 1st party. I still cooked.

Comment by: Sheri at August 30, 2007 7:54 PM

Very true! We NEED moments like this to MAKE us STOP and ponder God's perspective! We can ALWAYS have JOY because our God STILL lives and we STILL possess our SALVATION!

Comment by: Danielle at September 3, 2007 11:57 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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