It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because
God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors.
Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work,
forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world
seems to be free-falling, and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us.
~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
As the weather got worse and the lights flickered, the song "Dancing in the Dark" by Frank Sinatra just kept playing itself over and over again in my mind. It's an old song, one my Grandma used to sing out loud, especially when the lights were low or might even get turned off. A week ago Tuesday, Frank's lyrics kept me company as the wind began to howl.
We were at home when the gigantic and ominous storm hit Spokane, Washington and we could hear the whirl of the wind gaining momentum. We had been told there would be high winds. The Mayor of Spokane, David Condon, even ordered all employees of non-emergency agencies to leave work at 3:00 pm.
Those of us who live in the eastern part of Washington State are a hearty breed. After all,
we have all four seasons here. We do very hot and we do very cold. We love to tell stories
about the ice storm of 2002 that knocked out power for days. It was cold, cold, cold...but our pioneer spirit helped us to get though the challenge...together.
This windstorm would surely be a piece of cake.
Not so, not so, not so.
Before long we could hear what sounded almost like a tornado, or what one sounds like in the movies. And then a huge cracking and crashing sound on all sides of our house. And then the lights flickered and the power went out. It was pitch black out and we couldn't see what was going on. The wind howled and howled. I walked to our front door and saw limbs of trees flying by.
I have a collection of flameless candles in unique lanterns so I went into the "get the house ready for an emergency" mode. Thankfully, we have two gas fireplaces and once those were on, their glow kept us from focusing on the ominous sights and sounds going on outdoors.
Bert was even a bit giddy. It was like camping, he said, and it reminded him of his days as a Paratrooper in the Army. The TV and computer were off, and we reminisced about old stories. I broke out the sparkling cider and we set in for the evening and went to bed early.
The next morning we heard reports that we had experienced hurricane-force winds of more than 75 miles per hour. Trees were down everywhere, power poles were snapped like tooth picks, huge 100 foot trees fell right through houses and over 200,000 people were without power.
We were two of those people.
Eight days later we were still without power and snow had started to fall in Spokane.
While almost every school in Spokane was closed, the college where I teach was open.
Yikes! I would need to venture out in this inclement weather and teach my classes. Many of my students would have their children at home so they were "in a pickle," as my Grandma used to say. They needed to be at school and they also needed to be at home. Besides this dilemma, we are almost at the end of the quarter and huge projects were due. Lots of choices to make and none of them seemed easy.
The question of the hour asked in classrooms, grocery stores and gas stations was ... "Do you have power?" People who never talked let down their guard with neighbors as those with fireplaces offered a warm room to sit in. Those who had generators offered a warm meal.
We all offered warm hearts.
And to top it all off, Thanksgiving was around the corner. Our power company was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster (over 100 trees were down in our old neighborhood.) Many of those fell across roads and uprooted trees with a diameter of 14 feet wide. They called for help and a steady stream of power line workers came from Canada, Oregon and Idaho.
Neighbors surveyed the damage in walks together around the neighborhood. Everyone was quiet as we saw what our newspaper reported as a "war zone." It was unthinkable, unbelievable. It might be cause for depression and anger.
But it wasn't.
Instead something quite magical occurred. A new and renewed sense of community sprang forth. Computers were off and families played card games by the fire. Sleeping bags got moved into the living room and everyone talked and hugged and told stories until everyone fell asleep. Students who barely spoke to those across the classroom began conversations that had depth and breadth. People at grocery stores started up conversations that had real meaning.
In the darkness, we saw God's light shining brightly. His goodness everywhere in the midst of the storm. His faithfulness in providing life when everything seems to be a disaster. We would weather this storm with prayer and hope and reaching out to those less fortunate. We would come through this war zone with new lessons about what really matters and God's faithfulness to us in every area of our lives.
While this was a real storm with visible damage, it was a reminder of other tough storms Bert and I have been through in our life time. Some of those felt like a tornado and left scars and hurts. They were as unexpected as this storm was. Other storms have left us clinging to each other and our faith in God Almighty!
We certainly sang"Dancing in the Dark" with a bit of a smile on our faces, knowing full well none of our children or grandchildren hardly know who Frank Sinatra is. Even more often we sang one of my favorite hymns "It Is Well With My Soul."
And it was...well with our soul.
I could hear Ann Voskamp's wise words in one of my all time favorite books One Thousand Gifts... God is passing by. In the midst of feeling abandoned and alone, God is there. In those stormy, stormy moments, Christ is right there. In the blackest times, God is closest!
This Wednesday night, eight days after the storm, Bert and I were in our chairs looking out
at our back yard. I had just fixed soup, cooking it on the ledge of our gas fireplace. We were holding hands and steeped in nostalgia when...suddenly...THE LIGHTS WENT BACK ON!
I started to sing another one of the song I had sung for a week..."And All the People Said Amen!" We both threw our arms up thanking God that we had made it through this bump in the journey that renewed some of our most important life lessons.
What was the the greatest blessing of all, as I look back at this event? Bert is still here, following his stroke, to go through the storms with!
Once again we were reminded that even in the darkest times, where the trees crash and there seems to be no end to the destruction, we are not alone. Not for a minute! God Almighty holds us close and is always with us...no matter what. We are grateful, so very, very grateful, that we are still here...together. Holding hands, no matter what! My beloved and I.
And we are grateful...Blessed beyond measure by that knowing!
And all the people said Amen!
May God bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of His hand!
"We are all just walking each other home." ...