(I am posting this on Good Friday, the day we held a Celebration of Life for Barb Beck. Here is a link to the words I shared at that service.)
And for April’s theme of Power…(with thanks to Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland and Touchstones Consulting.)
Power is a necessary part of life. Power was present in the Big Bang that gave birth to a universe with swirling galaxies and dark holes. Power is clearly evident in the ball of fire we call our sun. The ancient elements of water, wind, fire, and earth have powerfully shaped our home, the Earth, since its birth. And we each need power…fuel…to run our bodies and to get through our days.
Power is evident in every relationship in ways both helpful and brutal. Whether we are being authentic or dishonest, facilitating or controlling, helping or hindering, there is power at work in every interaction we have. And this means that power is transactional; it ebbs and flows in every relationship, family, group, community, organization, society, etc. More often than not, power is unbalanced, and is not evenly distributed.
To understand power, it is important to know how it is being used. Is it power-over, or is it power-with? Is it power-from or is it power-to? Is it power-full, or is it power-less? Is it brutal-force-power, or is it affirming-power?
For example, while power-over could be beneficial, as in the case of a loving parent, power-over is more commonly associated with the relationship of the oppressor to the oppressed, a hurtful power dynamic that is as ancient as humanity. But we could also use power-over to master the self through spiritual discipline, which hopefully leads to an our being able to use power in ways that can enhance the common good.
In my experience, however, power-with is far more powerful than power-over. When power is shared, power is multiplied. Shared power requires that everyone take and use the power that they have, but ironically, there is a tendency for us to act as if we have little or no power at all. As Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
None of us is completely powerless, although we may find ourselves in situations where we feel that way. The question is, what will we do with the power that we do have for the benefit of ourselves and others.
Welcome to April!
When I was a little girl, my family went out to the league baseball games whenever our church team played. The ball game was not really the draw for me; I simply loved the energy of a rural community gathered on a summer night under the lights. I loved the dusty air and the smells. I loved the concession stand…and I loved the teeter-totters.
I remember the physical exhilaration of pushing off the sandy ground…traveling skyward while sending my partner toward earth. If we were differently-sized, the game became more challenging. There was the anticipation of hitting the ground hard if I was the heavier of the two…or, if the lighter, the thrill of being flung into the air and hitting the ‘ceiling’ with the same kind of force. Finding the perfect balance meant that the game was carefree and easy, but it was certainly not as exciting!
And so it is with life. When things are chaotic or akimbo, we look for more balance in our routines and activities. But when there is too much calm, we might long for something a bit more exciting. It’s always a balancing game.
The ‘wonderings’ in this month’s theme packet suggest that balance might be thought of something more than a destination. The invitation is to think of balance as a stillpoint on which we pivot…that moment when the teeter totter might go in either direction…the moment of pause before taking a leap. We balance for that split second before something turns…before shift happens or new life emerges.
In this view, balance is not a permanent condition, but is more of a rest stop. A place to catch our breath, re-gain our composure and gather our courage. When we are balanced…perhaps on the brink…we can prepare ourselves for what comes next.
T.S. Eliot wrote in Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
Stand in the balance when you need tom but do not call it fixity. Stand at the stillpoint and catch your breath, my friends. But then, dance!
With you through ups and downs,
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