Power has been on my mind a lot lately… in particular, a reading that we did in grad school from Seasons of Strength by Evelyn and James Whitehead. [ Did you think I was talking about electricity?? ]
These two definitions are permanently attached to my ministry brain.
Power-Over is experienced as coordination and control.
Power-With is experienced as mutuality and collaboration.
I don’t know anyone who likes Power-Over… unless of course, they are the ones with the power. And we know that our world is full-up with Power-Over… even a cursory glance at television in this election year is enough to make our stomachs churn.
So I’ve been in the car a lot lately and have been listening to John (Jack) Shea’s stories on CD… specifically Dynamics of the Spiritual Life. The story of Jumping Mouse is one of my very favorites. [ I was lucky to hear him tell it when he was a teacher in my grad school class. In person, he’s a dynamo! ]
Following Jumping Mouse, he shared the story of Christopher… actually St. Christopher. Click HERE to read the ancient legend.
I had to rewind the CD [ if there is such a thing ] and listen closely to Shea’s wisdom about the legend’s meaning. Its power hit me deeply… he talked about ‘power’.
The Purpose of Power
Christopher’s strength was to bear the world as a child… and so we call him the ‘Christ-bearer’… just as God carries the world to new life. The purpose and power of strength is to bear the world in the form of the next generation… power bears fruit… love and life.
This was a new understanding of power for Christopher. Previously, he understood power as: You are so strong that you are not afraid.
But having carried the Christ-child across the raging river, he now has a different perspective:
True power is that which bears fruit, love and life even when you are afraid.
How to use power
Power doesn’t make you fearless. The question is how to use power to bear fruit, to make life happen. This is the Christian vision.
That doesn’t happen with Power-Over… it only happens with Power-With.
I needed to hear these thoughts this week. God is good and gave me closet-time driving to and fro.
A new goal for me: How to use power to bear fruit.