September 29, 2011

Chittister, Powerlessness, and Freedom

Joan Chittister;s book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope is one of those books at the top of my "reading this changed me forever" list.

Also on the list is Pilgrim's Progress, The Screwtape Letters, Hind's Feet on High Places, and In Search of Our Mother's Gardens. Chittister's book is on my list because she gives the best explanation I have read of why and how we should sometimes embrace powerlessness.

Her discussion reminds me of St. Paul's assertion that "when I am weak, then I am strong." I appreciate how Chittister unpacks this by explaining how we can be freed when we submit to our powerlessness in certain situations and circumstances. She assumes we have done our spiritual "due diligence": prayed, listened, waited, self-examined, etc. At the end of this process, she confirms the wisdom of sometimes confessing we are powerless and that we must embrace that powerlessness to free ourselves to see things as they truly are---not how we would make them--and then reconfigure our approach to something that is unchanging.

While reading--very slowly and deliberately--Chittister's chapter on powerlessness, I came to understand how accepting and clearly naming powerlessness frees us from a matrix in which we can learn nothing new, build no new bridges, gain no new faith, and acquire no new skills.

Chittister also challenges us not to hide behind a phony faith that says: "Well, I am powerless, but God is all powerful and He will work it out for my benefit!" Do we always know what "our benefit" will look and feel like? Probably not. Have we even asked to know? Perhaps we will benefit from embracing powerlessness in certain places and waiting to see what will emerge afterwards. Accepting the limitations of being powerless in a situation is an extreme demonstration of faith. We do not need to see or know the outcome to be certain of God's personal involvement with whatever is happening with us. We are not giving God orders for certain outcomes. We are powerless while we wait for Him to do His work in and through us. This is true freedom.

We are His vessels, His servants.  It is enough.

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