When hurricanes hit, or stock markets crash, or election results make us feel powerless, our faith calls us to go deeper, to trust God more and not less, and to learn to rely on him and one another for the power we need.
We spent the last week of October in the cone of yet another approaching storm. Unlike all the previous tempests of the season, hurricane Zeta was predicted to hit us directly -- as a strong tropical storm or perhaps a Category 1 hurricane. So we went through the increasingly familiar drill and hunkered down.
With winds over 70 miles per hour, we knew that losing power was a definite possibility. But when Zeta landed with 110 mph winds, the fence Andrew and our neighbor built a year ago blew down, branches and roof shingles from other houses flew into our yard, two pieces of flashing were ripped from our eaves, the electricity flickered a few times and then went out. The wind and rain stopped completely when the eye passed right over us with an eerie orange-hued light. That gave us a chance to feed the dogs and take them out before the storm intensified again.
We promptly reported the outage and got out the flashlights. It was easy to stay positive when we noted that you can still cook on a gas stove and that a freezer can hold its temperature for about 48 hours. Besides, we'd lost power before, and the provider almost always beat its own estimate for restoring service. That usually occurred within a couple of hours, even during a storm. But when we checked the map of power outages, we quickly learned that half a million of our neighbors were also in the dark. This was going to take a while.
Believe me when I say that we are way more dependent on electrical power than we realize. That's probably why the five of us felt so anxious and irritable, and why Andrew was seriously considering purchasing a portable generator. What he did end up buying was a device that could run a small drink fridge in the garage and charge our phones from a car battery. Although we couldn't keep a car running in the driveway all night, it made the situation more bearable. So did the "cold front" that moved into the area, dropping temperatures into the 60s and 70s. When the lights flashed back on four days later, we cheered.
The experience of powerlessness is always jarring. That's because we usually go through life as if we're generally in control of what happens -- at least what happens to us. We know that bad things can happen to anyone at any time, but we never really believe that they will happen to us. We tell ourselves that we're prepared, that we have our flashlights and generators and bags of ice. But when we lose power, and there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances, we realize just how dependent we are.
Dependence, by the way, isn't a bad thing because we can choose what -- or who -- we depend on. Contrary to what the culture of overachievement may tell us, we don't have to go through life like komodo dragons making ourselves look bigger and more powerful than we really are. Most of us have a hard time asking for help, even when we need it. But have you ever tried to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, just to discover that you're barefoot and don't have boots at all? I have.
When hurricanes hit, or stock markets crash, or election results make us feel powerless, our faith calls us to go deeper, to trust God more and not less, and to learn to rely on him and one another for the power we need. We don't have to be completely self-sufficient. Honestly, none of us can be, and more, none of us were intended to be.
God is not powerless. As long as we plug into that truth, neither are we. The Lord will not always do our bidding, remove the obstacles in our way, or guarantee victory -- or even fairness -- in our every endeavor, but his love endures forever. God is faithful. He cares both for us and about us. And, as St. Paul so beautifully reminds us, his power is perfected in our weakness.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.