Monday, March 17, 2014

Power, the Jesus-follower, and birth order

It's a strange dilemma for a middle child.  I was born third of six children, so my reflex -- my chosen method of dealing with the world -- is to go off on my own and take care of myself, thank you very much.  I learned early not to ask for help.  I learned to think less of those who (as I saw it) got other people to do their work for them.  It's a whole different kind of ego: instead of lording it over others, I am puffed up in my own eyes when I ask nothing from anyone.    Middle children learn not to have strong opinions, but rather to go with the flow -- to hid behind a casual comment like "Whatever."

So imagine my consternation when I find myself in a job where everyone seems to hang on my commands, sometimes even my whims.  It's a little weird.  I have people saying that their whole job is to make my job easier.  Wow.  What does a middle child do with that?

Jesus said that the way his followers should exercise power is to die to themselves, to serve one another in love, to give themselves away.  What does this mean?

In my current context, growing into the shoes (and the desk, and the office, and the role) of senior pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church, dying to myself means learning to take command.  It means setting aside my preference for long ponderous looks out the window (my office has an excellent pondering window -- actually several) and engaging with the tasks of leadership, the tasks of giving direction.  In a strange paradox, dying to myself means letting my sense of what should be (discerned through scripture and prayer and many, many conversations and pondering in the Spirit) become the direction for others.  Dying to myself means learning to give direction to others.  It means having an opinion and giving that opinion its full weight, rather than shrinking back behind a safety screen of "Whatever."

In a sense, Jesus calls us to die to whatever our flesh naturally gravitates toward.  If you gravitate toward bossiness, my guess is that the Spirit of Jesus will work on you to submit to others and let their preferences take over.  If you tend to be opinionated, the Spirit may drive you to listen to lots of options before sharing -- or even forming -- your own preferences.

It's not that we're wired wrong; all these tendencies are good if used in the appropriate time.  It's just that each of us is so full of ourselves that there's little room for Jesus in us.  That's the problem.  So he will wear down and grind away the flesh that so wants to rule us, so that we might submit to him.

It's quite a journey.  Tonight I am wiped out from a day of meetings and conversations -- a delightful day, I might add -- and still I am so wired that I can't sleep for thinking about this new job.  Fun stuff.

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