I live in Johannesburg; South Africa and it is March 2019. This means that I live in a place and at a time where we are experiencing the worst rolling power cuts in the history of our country. (We call it load shedding.) Our national grid is under unprecedented pressure and a complete, country-wide blackout is not as impossible as it once seemed. It is better, so we are told, to be without electricity for 5 hours a day than to lose it all for an undetermined period.
As South Africans suffer in gridlocked traffic, contemplate huge financial losses during unproductive hours and throw away the defrosting content of their freezers, a tide of anger is rising. Everyone I speak to seems to be convinced they could manage it all much better and that there is an easy and quick solution. The conspiracy theorists are working overtime, even without electricity. To top it all, it is nearly election time and politicians are pointing fingers in any and all directions with awe-inspiring passion and angel-like innocence.
Maybe you can remember a time like this in your country or at least know of such a time. Maybe you live in a country where timed and controlled blackouts for only 5 hours a day would be an improvement. Wherever you are, I have discovered that everything is not dark when the lights go out. Here are some thoughts on the advantages of 5 hours without electricity daily.
Hopefully, some South Africans will read this and find some encouragement.
- Family time
While we as a family have a lot of fun together and we try to limit our children’s time on devices, we are not as successful with the latter as we want to be. We also watch television together and laugh and discuss the antics on the screen. When there is no electricity, this is not an option.
As a result, our conversations are longer and range over more topics. This is true of conversations with my wife and with my children. Board games are back in vogue and I see many pictures on Facebook of candlelit Monopoly or Cluedo boards.
Don’t you agree that this is a good thing? And that it is sad that such an extreme situation must occur for us to talk about more and for longer with our loved ones?
- Slower Pace
Since we can do less in a day, the pressure is building. However, for right now, everything in our hustling, bustling city has slowed down. It is something we contemplate all the time. We speak of the rat race and of the need to slow down as we gulp down our coffee before rushing to the next meeting. There is no rushing in gridlocked traffic and no Skype meetings at two in the morning. It is not going to last, but you should enjoy it while you can. And maybe discover that the world did not end because you slowed down…
- Creative proactivity
I have a new friend who will often spend 20 hours a day on his computer working under great pressure. He works from home and can only sustain his equipment for a part of any blackout period. In response to this ‘downtime’, he created a list of long overdue maintenance tasks at his house that can be done without electricity. You know, the kind that we all procrastinate on forever and ever. The moment the power goes out, he switches gears and gets going on these tasks.
I’m sure his family is smiling, and he is getting things fixed that will benefit him now and later.
I’m a fan of social media and I love the connection, interaction and information that comes my way via different channels. Yes, I know it is not perfect but is just a thing and not inherently good or bad. You get to choose what you use it for and how well you use it. (You can read my blog on this here.)
It does, however, fill my thoughts with a lot of noise and I spend many an otherwise idle moment scrolling down one feed or timeline or another. When the power goes, and the batteries die that is obviously not an option.
Just like you, I pray a lot. My circumstances often demand this of me. Social media sometimes remind me to pray for someone and it is repeatedly the best way I can help people in situations that boggle my mind. I mostly pray while driving and I do not recommend that you do any unexpected things around me on the road as my skill in doing only one thing at a time confirms my gender.
However, just like with my family, I am finding that my conversations with God are longer, deeper and on more topics than during a productive, electricity-filled day. I am so not immune to the frustrations of power cuts, but this single thing fills me with immense joy.
If you are a South African and suffering the same fate, I hope this blog inspires you to turn to your Father every time your computer suddenly ignores you or the traffic come to a standstill or your drill stops working. He is on the edge of His seat in eager anticipation of a conversation with you!
I love to listen to people and have spent a lifetime asking questions to get people talking. In doing this I have learnt the following. If you let people ramble on, they will share with you three stories and/or bits of information portraying the reality they want to present, or they think you want to hear. This part of the conversation is controlled and censored and while not devoid of truth, it is a guarded version of the truth. If you let them continue after that, they let their guard down, often unwittingly and you get to hear unguarded or uncensored truths.
Don’t you think that as a result of this human trait your relationship with God will be helped by longer and less structured time in prayer? When you have said everything you can think of, what will come next? What will you say then?
Or when was the last time you had the time to really listen to all He has to say?
Load shedding will be with us for a while. It is the one thing everyone seems to agree on. When it is done, we can be one of two things. World-class complainers after hours of practice. Or we can discover new joys in hours of intimacy with our Lord.
I hope you choose well!