South Africa is currently going through ‘load shedding,’ planned rotational blackouts throughout the country to prevent the power grid from collapse. Load shedding was introduced by Eskom (South Africa’s power company) in 2008 and has been happening fairly regularly since February 2019.
During load shedding, the power goes off for 2- 2 ½ hours. These are planned power outages, so there is a schedule, but you need to know (a) that load shedding is happening and (b) at what level (‘stage’). As I write this, there is load shedding and we are on Stage 2. Eskom can decide to stop load shedding or change the level as it thinks it’s necessary.
Until recently, the most dependable way Joe and I have found out that there is load shedding is that the power goes out and the time is close to the hour, sometimes on the dot. Ah, load shedding.
I found out where to look online for the schedule in our particular neighborhood and learned to google Eskom news to see if load shedding is anticipated. Sometimes the news reports that it’s happening or that a change in stage is anticipated, or it’s not happening but there is a likelihood of it happening sometime in the near future. Since the situation may change at a time when I haven’t seen the latest news, we’ve sometimes been surprised when the lights go out, the fridge goes silent, the wifi cuts off, and, in the morning, I can’t make a cup of coffee.
When you know the schedule, it’s easy to plan around not having electricity for a couple of hours. When you don’t know when it’s coming, you may have to change your plans.
“You know,” a friend said a couple of days ago, “there’s an app for that.”
Of course there is!
“A really good one. Very helpful.”
She gave me the name and I downloaded it. And yes, it is very helpful. I put in my location and now the app sends me alerts when something is going to change. It gives me the load shedding schedule in my area. It gives me a countdown until the next power outage. If I enable it to know my location, it will give me alerts for wherever I am, where the schedule may be different from what it is at home. And it features ads for items like generators.
Knowing what to expect and when is really helpful. We can plan, prepare, anticipate.
So, why am I mentioning all of this, other than to provide a glimpse into the lives of people in South Africa at the present?
There’s a lot of stuff that’s unpredictable. There’s a lot of big events we don’t have a schedule for. Whether it’s events in our own individual lives or things on a much bigger scale, there just isn’t an app for that.
I find myself pondering whether or not the disciples got frustrated with Jesus when doesn’t just tell them the schedule for when things will happen.
Jesus tells them about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and they respond, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mark 13:4). Jesus replies by giving them a lot of advice about how to live and behave and what to expect in the meantime. It takes him a good 28 verses until he says, “But about that day or hour not one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:32-33). He tells parables about bridesmaids who are caught without oil for their lamps because they didn’t know when the bridegroom is coming (Matthew 25:1-13); about doorkeepers who need to watch for the return of the master at an unexpected time (Luke 12:35-38) and thieves who don’t let you know ahead of time they’re coming to break in (Luke 12:39); and straight up says the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour (Luke 12:40). There is no app for that.
Wouldn’t a simple when help so we can plan?
Apparently Jesus thinks we have enough information, enough assurance, enough predictable information, enough promises to plan accordingly, even without a schedule.
But I can’t help wondering, what would an app look like for what Jesus is talking about? What alerts would it send, if not times? What words would I want to be reminded of to help me prepare and keep alert and “ready for service” (Luke 12:35)?
Some friends have a ministry where they send these sorts of alerts. They post encouraging words from the Bible and inspirational messages on their Facebook pages. I realize now that it’s a real gift that the messages aren’t time stamped. Sometimes they surprise me with their relevance to me in the moment (wow, that’s exactly what I needed); other times I think, oh yeah, I need to remember that.
But it’s not just the pleasant encouraging words I need. Sometimes I need the shake-me-up kind of messages too. I just noticed another friend uses a signature line on her email that quotes Galatians 6:7 (“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow”). I’ve never seen that embroidered on a throw pillow, but it got my attention. And it certainly addresses preparation and planning.
Some alerts I love are these, both from Romans 8:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (v 28) and
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (38-39).
What message, what promise, what reminder would you want to come to you as an alert? What assurance helps you prepare and anticipate and plan for times of darkness, however and whenever they come?