Friday, December 29, 2017

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas: Harnessing Power

Some good rules for children of all ages.
"Of course there is the anger where the love is strong.
It spills like gasoline.
...but it's a power we can draw upon
if it fuels the right machine."
                                           - David Wilcox

I grew up feeling very mistrustful of power, but learning lots of self-effacing humility and gelassenheit from my loving and praying parents. As an adult I became convinced that "all power corrupts", associating it with being domineering and controlling.

In our role as parents, we often discourage early signs of assertiveness, fearing it might lead to children becoming too aggressive or overbearing. "Tame it down," we say. "Be nice. Hold it back. Hold it in."

There's wisdom in that, but while there are of course many unacceptable expressions of power, there are also many necessary forms of it we need to be fearless and fully-functioning followers of Jesus. Sometimes we aren't aroused enough at things that anger the heart of God, and often we express power in unacceptable ways.

As parents we are to "bring up" and to "raise". So rather than disempowering those in our care, our job is to empower and encourage with every confidence needed to gain and maintain the stature and strength to see ourselves as equal to every other adult on the planet--no more and no less.

To feel under-empowered is to invite either depression or aggression. To experience Christ-like power is to be able to express an agape love that is tough as Teflon and yet capable of being genuinely tender with those weak or hurting.

Here Jesus is our model. He is able to demonstrate a no-nonsense authority that commands respect, and rids the temple courts of unjust money-changers, but also exercise the kind of soft power that holds infants in his arms and gently raises the afflicted and lost to new life. Even when he strategically chooses to endure evil rather than inflicting it, and even when spit upon and mocked, he is never defeated but always remains unbowed and unbent.

In short, it's not a matter of power over, but power with, power used for the primary purpose of empowering others, especially the children in our care but also spouses and others with whom we share a truly equal relationship.

In this context even anger, as in Wilcox's words, can be "a power we can draw upon". Spilled in an uncontrolled or vindictive way it can do irreparable damage, but used in well-engineered "right machine" it can be a great force for good, authoritative rather than authoritarian, respectfully self-giving rather than self-serving.

Much love, many prayers.

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