Thursday, January 17, 2013

Got Power?

pow·er  /ˈpouər/  a. ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.


I grew up thinking of power as a bad thing, as a form of dominance or coercion exercised over others. In my upbringing, true humility involved experiencing a certain amount of weakness and helplessness.


Of course, any power in the form of intimidation, violence, force, manipulation or control can be harmful indeed. But power defined as the ability to achieve worthwhile ends is both noble and necessary--and powerlessness in the form of victimization and helplessness is anything but a virtue.


As pastor of a medium size congregation for twenty years I often marveled at the sense of powerlessness many people expressed. Those who were older lamented that younger people seemed to hold all the power, whereas older people seemed to believe it was the youth and young adults who had the most influence in the church. Those who had longstanding roots in the congregation felt the newcomers in the church were most listened to, whereas the newcomers tended to express feelings of being marginalized, of always being considered outsiders. All of which illustrates the fact that power in relationships is so often a matter of perception.


Sometimes I wanted to say to my fellow church members, "Get over it. All of you have plenty of assets. Each has an abundance of power, enough to accomplish whatever you're called to do. Just do it. Act!"


For most of us, this courage to speak and act doesn't come easily, perhaps because we carry over into adult life many of the normally powerless feelings we experience in the first formative 18 years of our lives. As children we are in a lesser, one down position, impatiently waiting for the day when we will finally be respected as full-fledged, card-carrying adults.


But when our 18th or our 21st birthday finally arrives we realize nothing magic happens. We still lack much of the adult stature and empowerment we so looked forward to. In fact, for some of us, becoming truly "psychologically of age" may not happen until we reach mid-life, if then. I was in my forties when it dawned on me that when I father was that age, I considered him not only ancient, but fearless, and more than capable of accomplishing whatever needed to be done. While here I was, forty-something and still excessively cautious and unsure of myself, especially around people who were older than I, though I managed to hide most of those feelings well, as I'm sure now that my father had done.


Good power comes in many forms. Some of the natural assets we may have are gifts like age, experience, education, personality, intelligence, our gifts and talents, as well as our financial assets. Gender, race or family background may also play a role. Then there are the supernatural assets we have access to, gifts from God like the ability to practice love, experience joy, be patient and persevering, exercise courage, and use whatever spiritual gifts we've been blessed with. 


These all represent forms of power, and we all have all we need, a diversity of assets but never a lack of them. With power aplenty, and to spare, we can go about blessing and empowering others, and making the world a much better place to live.


Here's text to ponder today:


God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.


Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Ephesians 3:20-21 (the Message) 

You may also be interested in the post "Too Soon Old, Too Late Grown Up"

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