I think I don’t really know what “spartan times” are, but I am using the term to describe my last two weeks … which have taken me from living without a functioning bathroom in our cottage … through a stretch of near overwhelm when we got back … to now having no electricity at home or at work.  Our home, we are told, should get our electric back sometime today.  No word yet regarding STL.
So, I am trying to figure out which is more challenging – living without a functioning bathroom or without electricity?  In both cases, God eased our “spartan times” by sending generous people our way.  Up north, friends on our street left their ‘beach house’ open for us (though they were not even around) so we could use the bathroom.  And when our electricity went out, our son and daughter-in-law invited us to spend the nights with them (and when our other son lost power Tuesday afternoon, he joined the party).  So, in some ways, we actually have had a functioning bathroom and electricity the entire time.
And, in regard to the near overwhelm time, the five-day stretch in question could not have gone more smoothly.  The Gospel provided welcomed encouragement and hope to many (including me).  The Holy Spirit – the Comforter – was very active.  And when Sunday afternoon came I still had enough energy to take a granddaughter to the playground at St. Clair Metro Park (with Monica, of course) for an hour or so.
In each case, God has been both gracious and generous.  At the most we have experienced some minor inconvenience, and nothing close to hardship.  If you want to talk about hardship, talk about the people of Ukraine.  That situation is now six months old, and I do not see an end in sight.
Getting back to my original question, I have found living without electricity to be the greater challenge.  Of course, it may be because that is my current malady, but I think not.  No electricity, beyond issues of light and refrigeration, means no internet, no TV, no phone service (at church), no laptop, and no convenient place to recharge things.  While the lack of a functioning bathroom necessitated much creative thought, it did not cut us off from the world or limit our productivity.
One person told me whenever they lose electricity they think of the Amish.  Personally, I think of the pioneers – or our forefathers from just a few generations ago.  TV I can easily live without, but the other things – not so easy.  This morning I even discovered that our water heater must have electronic ignition.  Now I am thinking about the days before air-conditioning when people only bathed once a week … and I even know of families that had to share the bathwater with siblings!
And then I think about Paul when he was in prison.  Even though it likely was a relatively relaxed prison setting, his existence there, I am sure, was much more ‘spartan’ than anything I have ever experienced.  And what was he in prison for?  The answer, of course, is the very thing that had me in near overwhelm – sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Yet, from the prison in Rome he writes, “I have received full payment, and more.  I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.  And my God will supply very need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” (Philippians 4.18-20)
As a child of God in Christ Jesus, the truth is, we never experience true ‘spartan times’, for “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places … to the praise of his glorious grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  … In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1.3-14)
By now you know that when I am talking about ‘spartan times’ I am not talking about that ancient army that was known for its skill in on-land combat – or their namesakes in East Lansing who will be demonstrating their skill in a different form of on-land combat tomorrow night.  Rather I am talking about “fighting the good fight of faith – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadfastness, courtesy.  Run hard and fast in the faith.  Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6.11-12) And, of course, this means continuing to do it no matter what your external circumstances may be.
I know many people whose ‘spartan times’ are far worse – and much more lengthy – than mine.  And, as mentioned earlier, there are people of other times and places whose lives are laced with hardship.  So, what did we do last night to remind ourselves that life is good?  We went down to Comerica Park for a Tiger ballgame (It was a fun night, even though their ‘spartan times’ in the win column continued).  As for today, I anticipate the return of electrical power (sometime), while I pray for some form of normalcy to settle in shortly after Labor Day … and all of us to “have learned that in whatever our situation we can be content … (knowing that) we can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens us” (Philippians 4.11, 13)

Spartan Times