Tuesday, June 19, 2007

on power outages and suffering

(written Sunday night)

Our power is out. You have to love the technology that allows me to type by candlelight.

I spent the first hour willing the lights to come back on. When that didn’t work, I called the power company. Shortly after, the lights flickered for a moment before dying again. Now it’s getting warm, my eyes are strained from the contrast of a computer screen to a dimly lit room, and I’m starting to get irritable because I am uncomfortable. It’s an interesting moment to consider suffering. My intention had been to get a jump start on my post for the 40 Day Fast that starts this week. Now that I’m uncomfortable, I’m having a hard time feeling philosophical.

Which leads to an interesting thought (this is a conversation some of us have had in person, but worth repeating, in my opinion) – there is a distance necessary for reflection. A runner can’t write poetry during a race; she’s too busy trying to breathe and make it up the next hill. Only when the race is over, after she’s cooled off, had a shower, had a good meal, can she reflect on the experience. Those watching her run, however, can describe what they see from the sidelines quite eloquently. Though their perspectives will be different, both have something to say, and an observer has the necessary distance for reflection even in intense moments. It’s an important point as we prepare to fast.

In the face of suffering, there is an element of guilt over comfort. My favorite dinner blessing comes from a would-be missionary. It is her habit to say, “Lord thank you for this food, and for the ease with which we have it.” Amen. Should I lament my ease? Denounce it? Thank God for it? My opinion really depends on when you ask. I am a walking contradiction, buying secondhand clothes and two dollar coffee in the same day. But rather than denying my access to comfort, I want to use all that I have to the glory of God. Right now, what I have is the distance necessary for reflection. I have the luxury of being philosophical. And while reflection alone doesn’t fill a belly, it ain’t nothing, either.

We speak on behalf of those who are hungry or sick or hurt because talking is what we can do. It’s not all we can do, but it’s still important. How can I respond if I’m not aware of a need? And how can I know there’s a need, but not respond? So I sit in the dark, and do my best to describe what I see. It’s hard, and I don’t really want to do it, but I will do it anyway. I’m thankful for the distance, the ability to reflect, and I am unable to look away.

A great line from the West Wing comes to mind. “Never doubt that a small band of dedicated people can change the world. Why? Because it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Liz said...

our air conditioning keeps cutting in and out, so i feel you on the comfort level - it almost makes me feel guilty that i am so willing to move to the otherside of the globe, but when i'm here, i complain about a little heat...does that make me a hypocrite?

i love your analogy by the way of the runner - i just love the way you write. :)

Amber said...

I don't know you but I came across your blog as I was searching for the Margaret Mead saying that you quoted from West Wing. Thank you for the runner analogy. I am at a point in my life where I am running a great deal and feel as though I leave God behind, but this reminded me that it is only for a season and then I will rest with Him and reflect on all that has happened this month.