Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Gain Power and Keep Control

Here is how to gain power: Lose it.
And here is how to keep control: Lose that too.

Of course, Jesus says the same thing here:
Mark 10:28-31 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

And here: Mark 8:34-35 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
But I've often pondered how this is true. How does the paradox work?

I realized today that we actually know from experience exactly how this works in normal domestic life. Here, I think, is how it works:

It is only when you have to have something that the having starts to own and control you. You have to have a successful life; you have to have a loving spouse; you have to have that status, that house, that car, or that promotion, and you have to have it now (or pretty soon at least).

But isn't it true that at that very moment, you have lost power? And, in that instant, you have lost control? For you are not free to have (or not to have) the successful life; you are not free to have (or not to have) a loving spouse; you are not free to have (or not to have) the house, the car or the promotion. It matters so much to you. And so it controls you.

Dr Laurel and I were talking about this over dinner.

It is only when you give up your controls that you gain them back. If you give up your desire to control outcomes, then you are free at that moment. That is, you cannot be controlled. If you give up your rights and your power, then at that moment, you become incredibly powerful, for you have nothing to lose.

So, with deep apologies to Messiah Jesus and his profound beatitudes, I offer you these domestic examples of how this paradox can be true:
  • Woe to you if you have to make influential friends and be seen in the right places, for you will burn out protecting your reputation.
  • Woe to you if you seek 'success' in ministry, for you will always be thinking about yourself.
  • Woe to you if you cannot be satisfied with what you have, for the moment the salesman sees the deep hunger of your heart, you will always be charged at a greater price.
  • Woe to you if you try to control your partner, for you will lose the one you love.
  • Blessed are you if you come to a job interview with a heart that is content whatever the outcome, for in your freedom, you will more than likely be offered the job.
  • Blessed are you if you love the 'unsuccessful', for the ones who can help your ministry to 'succeed' will take careful notice.
  • Blessed are you if you come to buy something without the uber-desire to gain said item, for you will not let your heart be driven to a higher price.
  • Blessed are you if approach relationships without a heart of control, for you will simply be a more pleasant, happy and joyful person to be around.
Any blessings that I missed? And any other curses worth mentioning?

Pic on Flickr by Bitzi.


Mikey Lynch said...

i like your beatitudes man, good work.

mike said...

thanks again

sam said...

thanks Justin.... challenging. Blessed is he who does not feel compelled to write a witty response on someone's blog... not smart enough to finish this one but you could have a crack!

Rob Hughes said...

my first time... yes! i totally agree! but it makes me think, in the church context esp. if you dont desire change and 'expect' it to happen (which may lead to flattened hearts), it can create apathy and a desire for nothing to get done and for us to sit on our hands... whats the balance?

Justin said...

Rob Hughes -- welcome, mate. Good to have you over here.

There is no balance between losing one's life and gaining it!! But that's the beauty of it.

Oh -- we need to desire change and expect God to act. In the texts, we need to expect life, and a hundredfold of houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and lands (and with them persecutions). We need to desire and expect the whole Quan.

And the only way to do that is to give up everything.

(I know I haven't really answered your question.)

Rob Hughes said...

so how do you think we should expect change, but not expect anything at all?