Powerlessness is a word that sends shudders through our body and soul. We are taught to strive for power. Jesus himself said, I give you Power. We love and crave to be powerful.
I’m used to having power in my life. I’m used to being independent and, to a large degree having control. I travel around the country. I preach before hundreds weekly. I air television and radio programs that reach out to thousands. My books are being read by many. Power, power, power. Control. Independence. These are states of being we all strive for.
One of the hardest thing an elderly person has to deal with is having their driver’s license taken away. When this occurs, there is loss of independence and control and power that they will not get back. You don’t have to be old to taste being human. An accident, operation, traffic or even a simple golf game will put you in touch with being human. We simply can’t have things totally our way on earth. Sooner or later we must admit our humanness and inability to be all powerful. Paul the apostle gave us the jolting insight that in our weakness, we actually find new strength.
This wisdom rings true in the 12 Step program. The first step towards recovery is to admit that your life is unmanageable and that you are powerless to change it. Once you have a grasp of your lack of control and inabilities, then change can occur. Powerlessness brings us face to face with our own humanity and true condition. We are often so used to having power that me miss who we really are beneath all the flurry of activity, goals and stuff of everyday.
I am used to being in control of my schedule, talks, and overall life. I drive, fly, walk and go where I pretty much want to go. I do things for myself. I pride myself in being able to not only accomplish things, but do them better than most. Since my knee surgery everything has come to a grinding halt. I live with a 93 year old priest who now walks faster than I. I cannot drive. I cannot travel and preach. With difficulty I lie in bed and get up in the morning. My body is full of medications. I’m even having trouble having bowel movements.
It was at this point that a young man named Ignatius prayed, “Take Lord receive, all my liberty…” He prayed this from a hospital room and God heard his prayer. Ignatius would change and become the founder of the Jesuits and a saint in the Catholic Church.
Through my difficulties, I have come to realize yet again that all is gift. Never, ever take anything for granted. As the song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it is gone.” Also, simple prayer comes easier now. I don’t have to slow down, I’m already slow. All I have to do is turn my focus to the transcendent. It seems so much closer now.
It is very difficult for me to ask others to do things for me. Now I am in the position to ask for a banana from the table, or ask for a glass of water or have someone clean up after me when I eat. Simple things like moving from one room to the next become taxing and perplexing. My inability to do the ordinary is very humbling, but very real. While I realize this condition is temporary, it is still, for however long, fact.
My powerlessness also makes me grateful for what I do have. I long to get my past power back. Somehow I am able to stand outside myself, see my life, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Also, powerlessness brings a great susceptibility and openness. I am able to receive. Humility at its core comes from the word “humus.” Humus soil is that which is rich and receives the seed easily. When I was 18 and in need of forgiveness, it was my inability to forgive myself and ease the self-tormenting guilt that led to my receiving a great touch from God. Now, I find surrendering so much easier. “A broken and contrite heart you will not spurn.” Wild horses can only be ridden when they are broken. In order for the alabaster jar to spread the fragrance, it must be broken.
We too must be broken of thinking we are in control. We are not. Everyone one of us must come to terms with our mortality. Also, we must see where we are taking things for granted. It is easy to become jaded and assume everything we have is our right. Powerlessness can make us open and susceptible to the one who has all control and power, God. Paul said, “it is when I am weak that I am strong.” Those in recovery would say “Amen” to Paul’s statement. The “weakness” that led to recovery becomes the strength that is ongoing sobriety and personal change.
Powerlessness is uncomfortable but lies beneath the surface of every life. No matter who we are or what season of life we are in, our vulnerability and humanity is there. Take a moment and think about your inabilities and sufferings and even your own death. Don’t be afraid of your powerlessness, embrace it. Our human inabilities, so called weaknesses and brokenness can lead to more. In my case, my illness is teaching me who I really am. I am a person in need of grace. I am dependent on God above all things. I am grateful, surrendered and susceptible.
God has a way working through the events of our lives. God is faithful and utterly dependable. What new realities do you discover from your weaknesses? Being human, mortal and not in control is frowned upon in our culture. Yet, for those of us in touch, powerlessness is a way of truth. Don’t be afraid of your powerlessness, embrace it. “For when we are weak, then we are strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)