Empowered to NOT Do?


M_Diana2With my aching foot encased in a gigantic boot, propped high on pillows, and my heart wondering how or if this thing will be healed–whether by Holy Spirit power, mysterious and unseen, or by the skilled hands that hold the scalpel and the needle–let me think about this idea of “empowered” for a while.

I am used to going, to doing. Caring for others. Getting things done. I am not used to receiving help or asking for it. In fact, I hate feeling helpless. Hate it.

Now that I think about it, I suppose that makes me a control freak, of sorts. And let’s drop that “of sorts,” shall we? Out-and-out, full-bore, driven, up-front–yeah, those are more accurate descriptors.

I’ve always been a take-charge person, a number-one child, a bit on the bossy side and pretty good on follow-through.

Right now, however, I can’t even follow.

I must sit. And wait. And wonder. And empowered is SO not how I feel.

When I take a breath, however, and slow my mind; when I stare at the sea or the foothills; when I open my hands and lower my weary head, that is when the truth sneaks in the door and tentatively settles around me.

To be honest, I am not completely comfortable with the truth–is anybody, ever? But I am learning more about leaning into it, one day at a time.

And this is it, this truth of which I speak: all the power that I need for whatever is on my plate at any given moment is already here. It is not something I control or manufacture or imagine. It is not something I conjure up out of one part spit and one part stubbornness. It is not something endemic to me, as a bossy, number-one child. It is internal, but it comes from outside of me, which makes it paradoxical, mysterious, sometimes even elusive.

It is a Power to which I must submit, yield, and re-commit–sometimes on a moment-to-moment basis. It is what the Jesuits call, “The Soul of Christ,” that remarkable experience of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, the Spirit who walks with me through all of my days, guiding, comforting, nudging, and yes, empowering.

Right now, empowering doesn’t look like what I’m used to. It doesn’t look like getting things done, being busy, taking care of a long list of other people whose needs are generally far greater than my own. It does not look like much of anything outside of this body of mine, which is, for the foreseeable future, the master of my schedule and the ruler of my days.

Empowerment looks decidedly different today than it did one week ago. Because today, I am asking first for the power to be patient. I am asking for the power to be gracious. I am pleading for the power to be still instead of in motion, to be slow instead of quick. To be kind to myself and careful with my energies. To be aware of how this change in my status impacts my image of myself and the way others view me.

And hear me when I say this: it ain’t easy.

I know about being empowered to accomplish, to be recognized as fully qualified, to preach and teach and baptize. I know about being empowered to do.  Empowered to not do? This is a completely foreign idea, unfamiliar territory.

And it scares the crap outta me.

So I am memorizing a prayer that is new to me. One that seems eminently suitable for these days. It is a prayer of submission, and a prayer of recognition that only Jesus can be in charge of this life. Only Jesus can be enough, only Jesus can empower me to be enough even when I’m on the sidelines of life:

“Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood
be my food and drink

May your passion and death
be my strength and life.

Jesus, with you by my side
enough has been given.

May the shelter I seek
be the shadow of your cross.

Let me not run from the love
which you offer.

But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

On each of my dyings
shed your light and your love.

Keep calling to me until that day comes,

When, with your saints,
I may praise you forever. Amen.”

– David L. Fleming, SJ


Image credit: Pete