In this past month when we were experiencing a pretty extreme “cold snap” for the state of Kentucky, the heat on the ground floor of our home went out. We called for service but since we still had heat on the second floor, the servicemen took six days to get to us. They had to prioritize their customers. Elderly customers came first, people who had no heat in their home at all needed to come before us. I knew this and it made sense. We waited and waited for the serviceman, and after four days we called back just to get the secretary’s explanation “many people have lost their heat and they are working through their long list as soon as they can. They are working long hours right now.” I heard this information and I accepted it; it made sense. Still, I felt bad because it was so cold on the ground floor and it began to bother me more and more. There was so much I wanted to do down there and it was hard to do anything with a temp of fifty-five.
Then the servicemen arrived and with some complex fixes, the heat came back on. The house started to warm up as the day continued. When I went to bed, I just prayed that the heater would stay on overnight. Next morning I awakened to a toasty ground floor. Thank you Jesus!
Going without heat made me pause.
What if I always struggled to stay warm?
Most of my life I have never had a problem with comfort. Pastor Labberton* calls people who have few problems with comfort, people who live on “this side of things.” That would be me. For most of my days here on earth, I have had good days; I live on “this side of things.”
There is a woman in my adult Sunday school class who told us one day that it was a major turning point in her life when she could go to the grocery store and not worry about paying for her food. That meant something to me; it made me think about how I have never had to worry about grocery shopping costs. Some people do.
A woman in my prayer group revealed that her water was shut off to her home. She lacked the money to pay the bill. I am so used to turning the tap and getting water any time I want it. It is clean, it is hot or cold as I want, I can shower in it and cook with it. What would it be to lose it? Some people don’t have this basic necessity.
A few years ago, our area of the world lost power due to a massive ice storm. So many electric lines were torn down that it took two weeks to get power restored. I recall that a lot of gasoline generators were sold. People could not survive without electricity. Most of the time, we don’t have to think about this. We flip the switch and it just comes on. If it goes off a couple of hours, many stop work because they are using a computer, televisions stop working and life as we know it is halted. But it will come on; the power company is quick about fixing an outage.
There is so much that we don’t worry about on “this side of things.” Shelter is taken for granted. We rarely have to worry about safety; we play, eat, work, study and worship without fear. Yes, on “this side of things” we rarely think about what we lack because most of us have the basics covered.
But let’s be honest, we still think about the basic needs but not like a poor person. People on “this side of things” think about wanting more. We may want cleaner water so we purchase water filtration systems. We don’t just want bread; we want the best whole grain loaf we can buy, organic please. If our home is a comfortable 1,500 square feet, we want 2,500 square feet [to store more of our stuff].
Ask my wife what happened after the heat went off in our home. Day after day, I got whiney. Every hour that it was cold downstairs I got fussier. I am not proud of this; in fact I am ashamed. Life got a little harder for a few days and I found myself struggling to maintain my positive attitude.
That is the irony of life on “this side of things.” We may have all the basics covered but that doesn’t matter. People who have it all can still have miserable lives. For a few days I let myself become miserable. We all know that life can be about the quest for bigger and better. A small car is not good enough, a small television is not adequate, a small lawnmower just won’t get the job done. We have to upsize.
The point of this post is that most of you reading this have all the basics “covered” just like me. Pick the top three basic needs you really want. Then imagine that life circumstances take those things away indefinitely, permanently removed from your life.
How would you feel?
Most of us can not imagine. We have never been without.
We have never had to define our lives by what we lack.
Yet some of our neighbors don’t live on “this side of things” and Christ calls on us to love them, try to understand them and try to help them.
A tall order… for those on us on “this side of things.”
*author of The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor