Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reputation Increases; Ability Decreases

In my church family I have many friends whom I know very well. We've talked and shared about life's deepest joys and struggles. When one of them experiences healing, or victory, or moves into greater freedom, I get a feeling that's so good I think, "This is what life is all about." When one of them suffers loss, I feel loss. Personal empathy seems to be increasing. I just turned 60 and think I am experiencing more compassion towards others than ever before.

And more powerlessness. The days of living under the illusion of personal power and innate ability are fading fast. I've long felt that I can't change anybody. I can't even change my own self, if "change" means a Romans 12:2 kind of metamorphe. I'm surprised people change, in this deep sense. I don't expect it. I know I'm not the causal agent of such change. I see this as a very good place for me to be. Being-used by God as a vessel through whom God's power flows happens through powerless people who know that's who they are. I am unable; God is able.

I just entered the decade of my 60s. I want this to be an experiential time of the reality of personal powerlessness and increasing trust in God. This is hard to grasp by 20-somethings. Most of them are incapable of heart-knowing this. It's not that older people get this by simply being older. I meet old people who are trying to recapture their youthful powers. That quest is vain. The truth is, as Dag Hammarskjold once wrote, "Reputation increases; ability decreases." I'll revise that to: Ability decreases; God increases. As John the Baptist confessed, "I must decrease, so that God will increase." The alternative viewpoint is false and dangerous.

I must learn a greater humility and dependency. "Dependency" is making plans to knock on my door. Spiritually this is good, because spiritual usefulness is in inverse proportion to physical and mental pride.

Today some of my friends are hurting. I feel with them. I want them to be better. I am not their answer. Because I want to help, I want God to move through me to bring healing to these ones I love. The only answer I know and trust in is this: human abilities are limited; a move of God is needed. Now, more than ever, when healing, release, and growth happen, it's easier to give God the credit.