We were in the middle of our usual morning scramble to get ready for school when the lights blinked. Blink, blink … and then the house went dark.
We scurried around, gathering candles and tripping over cats and adjusting to this new wrinkle in the day. Alerts on our phones reported that power outages were widespread and repairs were going to take a while. The kids cheered when news came that school was canceled.
The day sped merrily along, a mostly-sunny sky making us almost forget that we didn’t have power. Things changed, though, as the sun started to settle in for the night. An element of panic crept into the day along with the darkness.
The house started to get cold. We remembered we were going to spend several hours being stuck in the dark. Our phones were losing their charges and there was no prospect of a hot supper. Suddenly the power outage wasn’t quite so fun.
We were feeling kind of gloomy about the evening’s prospects when someone had the great idea. Our church building still had power. Why couldn’t we go there for a while?
We packed up some food, our phone cords, and a few decks of cards and headed to church. Inside it was bright and warm. I heated soup on the stove in the church kitchen along with some water for tea and hot cocoa.
As our phones charged and Christmas music played on Pandora, we ate, ate a little more, and then got out the cards. We chatted and laughed as we played several rounds of Nerts, nibbling cookies and enjoying being together.
The evening had turned into night before we decided to pack up and head home. Such a surprising day it had been. I most certainly had not expected to end the day at church, getting fed and warmed and charged up to head back out into the darkness.
It may have been an unconventional use of the church facilities. But it seemed utterly appropriate.
I sometimes get teased for being a church-goer. It’s a waste of a perfectly good Sunday morning, from one perspective. I do understand that. Frankly, I don’t always want to go to church. It can be tough to give up the time when there are things I’d rather be doing. Sometimes I’d rather stay home by myself and jump into the to-do list.
I still go to church, though. It’s not because of a social obligation or because I think it’s the right thing to do, or because I think I’m somehow holier if I sit in a pew for an hour every week. I go because I’m cold. And hungry. And it’s dark out. And I need to recharge.
God is not limited to a building. I can, and do, spend time with Him throughout the week, talking to Him as I drive, remembering His lessons of patience and humility when I get frustrated at work, feeling His comfort when I’m sad and His encouragement when I’m weak.
God is not limited to a building… and yet, I go to a building each week because I want time when I know I can do nothing but be with Him. On Sunday mornings I step away from the world for an hour and breathe quietly and take time to listen, and think, and absorb. I am reminded who I am and whose I am. And when I shyly head for the doors and back out into the world I am fed, and warmed, and powered up by my time with my Creator.
At least, that’s the way it should be. Let’s be honest … it’s not always as peaceful and lovely as all that. I’m usually running late and I slide into the pew harried and frazzled. I want to listen to the sermon but catch myself daydreaming about lunch instead. As I speak the words of the liturgy my brain is busy critiquing the outfit of the woman in front of me and wishing the service would be over already.
We come to church to be with God, but we are still so very human, and so very full of flaws, even as we stand in His presence.
And yet, He still meets us there. He still feeds us, still speaks to our so-distractible hearts and offers us His forgiveness, His comfort and strength.
Our all-powerful God, who set aside His power to come to us as a helpless baby and to hang on a cross, comes to us still. He comes despite our weakness, even when we don’t remember to come to Him. He comes holding out to us the life, death and resurrection of His Son and saying Here, look how much I love you, just as you are.
When we are weak, and cold, and hungry, and the world is dark, still we are not powerless. There is food for our souls, warmth for our hearts and light for our lives in the manger hay. Oh come, let us adore Him.
Julie Riddle is the mother of three boisterous children and the wife of Pastor J. Derek Riddle of Peace Lutheran Church in Rogers City.