There is darkness before the dawn

We have certainly had a rough ride. Some have had a tougher time than others, but no one in Fairfield County or the Bridgeport Diocese can claim to have been unaffected by superstorm Sandy. It has been a true test. Keeping body, mind, and soul together has not been easy.

I hope that you and your family remained healthy and safe during the brutal storm and its painful aftermath. For me and my family, the blackout brought some hardships. A week without power meant a refrigerator full of spoiled food. It meant some extra bucks spent on batteries and camping lanterns, and a few frigid nights spent under piles of blankets.

For some reason I found boiling water to do the dishes particularly irksome. On Sunday, day six of the ordeal, the family voted to go out for pizza. I voted for it in part because I just couldn’t face scrubbing pots and pans in the dark. At the restaurant, Patrick, my 4-year-old, broke the tension by declaring with heavy eyelids, “I wish I was in bed.”

It was a sentiment I could relate to. After seven days without power I just wanted to crawl into bed and stay there.

But the storm, and the long days waiting for the lights to come on, also brought some unexpected joys. A week without power meant Daddy stayed home from work. It meant that we could eat together as a family in the evenings. TV wasn’t an option. Instead, we read books together, organized backyard games, and introduced ourselves to neighbors we hadn’t met yet. These were unexpected blessings and I am truly thankful for them.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was in keeping spirits up. I got up once or twice on the wrong side of the bed. The urge to call and complain about the lack of progress on our street’s damaged utility poles was ever-present. Luckily my wife was there with gentle reminders to straighten myself out. We may not have had hot water, but that was no excuse to lose our minds.

My wife is not an unexpected blessing, but I often don’t deserve her patience.

The week’s privation put me in a reflective mood. I found myself possessed of unexpected gratitude, and not just for the missing modern conveniences that make normal life relatively easy to endure. I was grateful, too, for the struggles and sacrifices of those generations of ancestors I’d never met. I daydreamed about a way of life that used to be. I wondered if I had it in me to live this way all the time.

My grandfathers came to this country to escape real hardships—famine, disease, death. The coffin ships they sailed on weren’t equipped with WiFi. These Hennesseys, Nolans, Quinns, Murphys, and Sullivans had nothing in the way of possessions. Some of them barely had clothes on their backs.

They brought only their faith. How fortunate am I that they did? For some, I suppose, hard times chip away at faith. For others—for the truly fortunate—faith is strengthened by adversity. My ancestors couldn’t leave me wealth and property, but they left me something of greater value. They left me the tenets of a faith that has for two millennia provided shelter from the storm.

Take away my iPod and my cordless phone. Take away my hot shower and the microwave that warms my coffee. What am I left with? Take away my daily concerns about my appearance. Strip away my fear of failure, my privacy, my sense of humor, and my occasional good cheer. Take all of this stuff and what have I got? What have any of us got?

Faith. That’s it. Faith that we are loved. Faith that we are protected. Faith that we are saved, ultimately, from our earthly failures and our sins. Faith that when we have lost everything, we still have Him.

Think of how we come into this world—confused and in darkness. Often that’s how we leave it, too. In between, we spend far too much of our brief time here worrying about trifles. Like the way I nearly spent my week, stewing over such counterproductive questions as: Why is it taking so long for them to get to my street? Who do I have to call to get some answers? How come that neighborhood got power and ours didn’t?

I won’t be glad to go through this again. I doubt anyone around here would be. But we must always remember that our true fate is not in the hands of Connecticut Light & Power. Our souls are in the hands of a merciful and loving protector. Even if the lights go out, we have to remember to keep the faith.

For Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

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