(Read John 1:1-14)
For many of us, the concept of power is a troublesome thing. Afterall, Christians are supposed to be meek, humble and loving. Is it possible to be those things and powerful all at the same time?
Part of the problem is the way that power has been misused in the world throughout time. Whites misused their power to enslave those with darker skin than them for thousands of years (to this day). Hitler misused his power to annihilate 6 million Jews. Governments misuse their power to steal from their people and serve special interest groups. Companies misuse their power to make their executive officers rich at the expense of their employees and stock holders. Husbands misuse their power to dominate their wives. Parents misuse their power to subjugate their children. The misuse of power to control and deny others of their basic human rights is one of the great sins of this world.
The other part of the problem is our understanding of what it means to be powerful or who can be powerful. The popular understanding of power is that it is reserved for those who are wealthy, beautiful, famous, healthy, educated, in higher positions, physically dominating (the bully, the mafia, the military), etc.
I don’t believe we have been taught what healthy power is, nor have we been taught how to cultivate that healthy power. Power, when used for the good, is a God-given blessing. The Gospel of John says, “To all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Belief somehow unlocks our power. When we believe in God, when we believe that God resides in us, then we have the power to be the children of God. Who are God’s children? People who are loved, loving and happy. People who are capable, strong, and empowered to make a difference in this world. People who live out their callings, who live into their destinies, who realize their dreams.
Each of us has inherent power. Our energy is our power. Our spirits are our power. We all have energy and we all have spirits, and we all have power that can be used for the good.
False power is fueled by the ego. It seeks to make the self better than others. More attractive. More wealthy. More successful. More well-known. More desirable. False power can be easily taken away because we need those outside of ourselves to give it to us. We need their affirmation. We need their approval. We need something that they have to give us.
Spiritual power is different. It cannot be taken away because it comes from within. Spiritual power is the power that comes to those who believe and those who walk the spiritual path.
Spiritual power requires hard work because it requires you to face your suffering. Suffering is our greatest teacher in this life. If you resist suffering, it persists. (What you resist persists). You have to face your demons; admit your weaknesses; show your vulnerabilities. When you enter into your suffering, you can see through it and this leads to rewards beyond measure: to understanding, to compassion for yourself and others, to strength, to inner peace, to harmony amongst those with whom you relate. Spiritual power leads you out of suffering and into happiness. It leads you into eternal life here and now.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes five kinds of spiritual power in his book, The Art of Power. They are:
Faith. Which is actually more accurately translated as confidence or trust in yourself. If we don’t believe in ourselves, if we don’t have confidence and trust in ourselves, we have litter or no power. It is very difficult to accomplish something that you don’t think you can accomplish.
Diligence. Which is to stay committed to something. To keep at it. To fall down and get up over and over again. To go astray and to come back. Think in terms of progress and not finality. You will accomplish your goal if you don’t quit. That’s power.
Mindfulness. Which is to pay attention. To be here, now. To be present. To be aware. When we pay attention to what is really happening in the present moment, we are able to respond in the way that is most appropriate, in the way that situation requires. Most of the time, we just act out of habit. We sleep walk through life and drive on auto pilot.
Concentration. Which is to go deeper. Once you become aware of what is actually going on, you can really begin to engage life and people. Who is this person that you are talking to? What are they trying to say? What does this job that you are doing require of you? How can you meet the needs that are present?
Insight. Which is to see clearly. To see reality as it is. To see the true nature of things, the essence of things. It is what Buddhists call right view. Insight occurs once we have concentrated and come to see deeply. We come to a greater understanding and are now able to act in accordance with what the person or situation actually requires. We no longer come from distorted perceptions or wrong view. We see the bigger picture. We see as God sees.
Cultivate these five spiritual powers through the practice of meditation and mindful living. The children of God are called to be a powerful people working for good in the world.