May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-14, NRSV)
“You Got Power!!”, a member of my congregation exclaimed.
My family and I were among the nearly 4 million Americans that were affected by the summer storms (called a derecho) that swept across the midwest and eastern seaboard. the storms were fast and intense. Literally, thirty minutes of wind, rain and lightning resulted in 1.5 million electrical outages in the DC Metropolitan Area. Many persons are expected to be without power for days in sweltering 100 degree heat and humidity.
We lost our electricity a little after 11pm on Friday, at the height of the storm. Temperatures spiked around 101 degrees on Saturday and the home in which we live, the internal temperature spiked at 84 degree. (The lower parts of the house were bearable at around 74 degrees.) Many of my neighbors and friends vacated their homes to attend movies, malls and museums in order to escape the heat and lack of rest. We stayed in our home and made the best of our time and energy.
At a church function the next day, many of my fellow congregants discussed our challenges surviving the storm. All of the people began conversations that day with, “Do y’all have power?”. The answer usually followed with either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, according to the circumstances in which we found ourselves. It continued in this way until one member finally rebutted all of us when she blurted out, “Y’all GOT POWER!!! WHAT YOU NEED IS ELECTRICITY!”
Her statement pointed out a wonderfully refreshing theology. There is a power at work in each of us that never goes out! We just lost electrical connectivity due to the storm. Now sure, that is what we all meant, but none of us said it. We semantically equated electricity and ‘power’. No harm, no foul!! Not so much…
The question of power seemed appropriate to the discussion, but her comment exposed a real theological distinction of our life in God. You see, what we call a thing is often what we believe about a thing. When we name a thing, we in many respects, define what it means to us. When we call a thing “black” we at have some level identified it as negative. This has been ingrained in our culture over many centuries and therefore become a part of our lexicon. Black sheep, Blacklisted etc…
The behavior we exhibited after the blackout, gave real insight to our true definition of power in our lives. Many people were helpless without an ability to charge batteries, surf the internet, or even to simply watch television. In spite of the oppressive heat, many persons felt it absolutely essential (and necessary) to their survival to get to air conditioning and safe environments. Others, however, found it necessary to connect to ‘power’ in order to get their centers of identity powered up in order to function in a lack of electrical power.
What my parishioner’s comment reminded me of is the importance of remaining grounded in times of challenge and crisis. Paul reminds us in the above passage, that we all have access to a power that keeps us in the midst of our circumstances. Despite the challenges of our life, Paul says that we really do have power to live in and through those challenges. The power to be patient in circumstances that challenge our patience. The power to be joy-filled in trying and sad times. We have power that keeps us ‘grounded’ when we very easily have a tendency to be ‘short-circuited’.
This power is outside the purview of our ability to mediate it and understand it. It is available to all of us! Praise the Lord!! The shorthand of power can be, for some, a literal understanding of enabling us to be more than what we are. It is a sense of identity for some. The storm, my parishioner, and this passage all remind us of the importance of remembering who has the power and tapping into the power that heals, restores, invigorates and affirms in the midst life’s difficulties and trials.
Keeping a constant tap to the power source of the universe helps us all gain a vision of truth in each of our lives.