by: Sean Fitzgerald
As each day passed this week we encountered a new problem, a new stressor that offered us less hope and more frustration. Beginning with the unusually cold weather, which then impacted our delivery of electricity, and concluding with the end of our water supply. It’s amazing how dependent we have become on our modern-day conveniences, isn’t it? I guess the old adage is true, “You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”
To battle against the cold we gathered more blankets and lowered the thermostats. Preparing for “short” outages of electricity we gathered batteries, candles, flashlights, and auxiliary phone charging packs. And to protect our water we wrapped our pipes and allowed our faucets to drip. Who would have thought that the preparations we were making today would only compound the problems that we would face tomorrow?
Even after all of our quick thinking and planning, we fell short of prepared for what would encounter these last several days. As we had moments of phone service to reconnect with the world outside our home, we learned that the cold weather preparations put a tax on the power grid too great to be handled in its reduced capacities. As we searched for alternative heating methods and supplies, like before, the rush on the stores left shelves empty and supplies in high demand, and as our faucets dripped, little did we know that our communities reserves were being depleted leading to a complete shutdown of our water system.
As we consider the events of the last several days and look for light (literally in most cases) at the end of this tunnel, I invite you to consider Joel 2:1-2 and 12-17. The Christian calendar marks today as Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Season of Lent. A time when followers of Jesus Christ are encouraged to remember our desperate need for redemption and to continually and intentionally turn back to God in every area of our lives.
Maybe for just a minute, we can reflect on the absences of these conveniences and recognize this as a moment (a long moment) to evaluate what I might need to turn loose of in order for God to be the only god which I serve.
In the midst of this crisis, I hope we can take a moment to reflect on the opportunities provided in our hardships to be reminded of our need for God and His presence in our everyday lives.
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, from the ESV:
2 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.
12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’ ”
The prophet Joel speaks and writes of the coming Day of Yahweh. A day accompanied by darkness and clouds, a day of gloom and destruction. On this day Yahweh will bring judgment and consequence upon all who’ve turned away from Him.
In response to this pending day of judgment, Joel offers and pleads with his listeners to return (repent), and serve The Lord their God once again.
This repentance he says will look not like a mending of their garment but rather like a mending of their hearts! This is not about looking the part, it’s about living the part. Like the audience of Ezekiel, a new heart is required. One that recognizes the Lord as a God of love, mercy, and compassion. A heart that when knowing Him this way is compelled to surrender to His will and follow His ways out of love and respect rather than obligation and fear.
As we stood in a dark home rummaging for a source of heat to snap the cold air and candles to illuminate the darkness, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of desperation and separation. Yes, my family was with me but even still there was an eerie feeling like all things were coming to an end! I knew they weren’t but still… At that moment I could not help but wonder if that’s what being without God and therefore without hope felt like.
There has been much talk of frustration with this organization or that entity. Blame for our troubles passed to this person or that company. Frustration, over our lack of preparedness for this unprecedented situation. If only everyone else could be better, behave responsibly, and just be a little less self-centered.
If only for a moment (a long moment I hope) we would direct our focus not on the present inconveniences of this world, but on our current relationship with The Creator of this world. Consider, allowing this present moment to be a reminder of the coming day when real gloom and despair will be known. Let today, Ash Wednesday, be the day that you return to the Lord completely. Not just in a few areas of your life so that it appears that you are following Him. No in every area of your life, so that your heart will be pure and your life holy and pleasing to God, Yahweh, Creator of all things good!