We all come to stages of life with varying points of view. Over time, our points of view on an entire range of matters, issues and concerns are shaped by our life experiences. As we gain more experiences, some views and opinions may solidify (hopefully not ossify). Others may change, but in many cases, as we reach a certain stage in life, our core beliefs and values…those beliefs and values that govern how we view the world hopefully reach some measure of consistency if we have been mindful, thoughtful, open to a certain amount of new and useful information from time to time, and constantly curious. As the Word says hopefully, “we are not blown to and fro” (Ephesians 4:14) by the latest fads, doctrines and unsound ideas.
Over my now almost 50 years, God at various times revealed to me a number of things through the experiences of my life and my seeking to find a Christ-centered context for them.
One of the most potent areas of perspective is what it means to have power, lack power, and our relationship to power…or proximity to power…as some would phrase it. As a younger person, youth and then young adult, I was almost always in some sort of leadership role. That was (and still is) natural for me. That is one gift I think God gave me a blessing…leadership ability. So I didn’t understand all of that early on…it sort of just happened and was a natural occurrence, whether that being an elementary school patrol captain, a high school student body president, or an Army officer. All these roles were successively more responsible and were positions of authority. Now to be clear, even as a young Army officer, that authority has (and had) well defined limits. There was a hierarchy of leadership, and I definitely was not at top of it. I had to take orders and execute them…as well as give some. For example, I did have a defined position of authority where I had the ability to order, direct and command actions and activities. This is an empowered point of view. I had very little exposure or experience with “lack of power” or lack of ability to make independent decisions regarding my own direction and associated well being.
So in that respect, my entire world view was seated in a “power centered” place.
Without going into too many details, for the sake of brevity, I will share that from about my 27th year forward, for a number of periods of my life for upwards of the next 20 years…and even up until today,
I had many, many, many times when I felt utterly powerless. Sometimes that was a mental state, but in other times it also was accompanied by circumstances, be they personal, professional or otherwise.
At first…in the very early years…I did not clearly discern the differences between the “empowered” state and the “disempowered” state. My default setting, fairly firmly placed into my mind’s eye up until that point was a “power perspective”. Even in situations where I truly lacked power, I still brought a rather naïve “power-centric” (“Eurocentric”) thought process into my observations and decision-making. Many times, this lack of temporal wisdom and perspective did not serve me well as it resulted in, at times, some irrational or sub-optimal decisions. It took quite some time, and a number of painful failures for me to “unlearn” my “power-centered” (“Eurocentric”) perspective and truly appreciate my situation from a vantage point of “powerlessness” or “lack of authority”–facing reality. Then, when I was better able, perhaps not completely, but better able to understand this, I began to develop some true insight and wisdom. In addition, this insight helped me be much wiser and more effective in relating to other people, managing my daily concerns, and making better decisions.
Also, it allowed me to forge a deeper and richer relationship with King Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.
When we really examine the context in which King Jesus (Yahweh) brought himself into our worldly space over 2000 years ago, it began…as it end…in a position of utter powerlessness with respect to the world system of hierarchical power and power as the world understands it.
He was born in a stable in and laid in a manger, for there was no room for them in the Inn.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; 7 and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket[a] and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn. [Luke 2:6-7 Living Bible (TLB)]
In the end, he hung on a cross, the most demeaning, powerless and degrading method of execution practiced at the time.
He was never a member of any religious or political organization.
He labored in obscurity as a humble carpenter’s apprentice then carpenter for likely almost the full 18 years between our last record of Him questioning the teachers at the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12 and then His appearance and Baptism by John the Baptist at about the age of 30, from whence His earthly ministry begun.
And during that ministry, though he demonstrated immense supernatural power from time to time in revealing the truth of who He was (and is) and reflecting the glory of heaven, He never leveraged that power to overturn the earthly systems and hierarchies in which He existed. He only used His power to demonstrate how ultimately weak, futile and insufficient those earthly power structures were (and are) to save humanity and meet the deepest needs of God’s children.
So back to my story and my reflections. It was not until I was forced…for YEARS…into positions of powerlessness, limited power, lack of power and at times professional subordination to individuals in power over me…some of whom were (and are) competent…and some of whom were (and are) not very competent at all (subject of a whole different essay)….that I really began to understand the beauty, dignity, true power, truth, love and wisdom of King Jesus. It made me want to love and honor Him all the more. And serve Him better.
What it also reminded me of is that King Jesus reminds us “my yoke is easy, my burden light”.
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 Amplified Bible)
When we follow King Jesus, at times it is going to bring us into conflict with the world we inhabit.
We don’t always have to go looking for that conflict. If we are on the straight and narrow path following King Jesus…sometimes the conflict will find us! Our task is to stay committed in the middle of the storms as much as we are in the times of peace on the placid seas. It is at the stormy times in our lives that King Jesus can truly reveal His glory not only to us, but through us…and let His light so shine before mankind that nothing can cover it up!
So, in the end, I am thankful for every experience God has put into my life…and ESPECIALLY when He has taken me to the “low places” the “empty” places, the places of no power and sometimes fleeting hope. It is there…in those valleys that He revealed Himself and the depths of His love. It is there that He picked me up, dusted me off, reminded me that “the game isn’t over!” and pushed me “back into the fight” so to speak. I am thankful. I know I still have such a long, long way to go to ultimately be the person God created me to be. The one who Jesus can use for His Kingdom. But I know by God’s grace that He has shown me where I was and what He has done, what His mighty hand alone can do, by His own hand and no other! I have that confidence in me now that though the winds may blow, and the seas may buffet, so long as I stay firmly founded and firmly anchored down in the truth of King Jesus I may be shaken, but never defeated, tormented, but never completely taken out…AND…there will be times of great victory and celebration. It is to know the balance between those two and the ability to keep them in perspective…always still focused on King Jesus to climb “higher, higher”….(on Jacob’s Ladder).