Tuesday, April 12, 2005

power and authority

today's post from wes about the recent nouwen daily meditations and an email sent out by stephanie have been weaving together my thoughts on power and authority.

stephanie and i both come from a background (although her's was far more severe than mine) where male power and authority was unquestioned and god-like in it's influence in our lives. so unpacking and redeeming thoughts on these topics are very important to me. the authority and power we experienced is nothing like the thoughts i've been reading these past couple days.

stephanie's quote from the wounded healer

The (one) who can articulate the movements of (their) inner life, who can give names to (their) varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of (oneself), but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. S/He is able to create space for Him whose heart is great than (their's), whose eyes see more than (their's), and whose hands can heal more than (their's).

This articulation, I believe, is the basis for a spiritual leadership of the future, because only (one) who is able to articulate (one's) own experience can offer (themself) to others as a source of clarficiation. The Christian leader is, therefore, first of all, (one) who is willing to put (their) own articulated faith at the disposal of those who ask (their) help. In this sense s/he is a servant of servants, because s/he is the first to enter the promised but dangerous land, the first to tell those who are afraid what s/he has seen, heard and touched.
i kept stumbling on the 'he' and 'man' so i unisexed it, as i'm sure henri, now that he is in heaven totally would do himself! :)

wes quotes the meditation from the 12th:

The Authority of Compassion

Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach. But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are "subject" to authority. The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose "subjects" we are willing to be.

It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen. True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.
in re-reading it on his blog i recalled a part of parker palmer's definition of authority from a hidden wholeness, pg. 76-77:

"The authority such a leader needs is not the same as power. Power comes to anyone who controls the tools of coercion, which range from grades to guns. But authority comes only to those who are granted it by others. And what leads us to grant someone authority? The word itself contains a clue: we grant authority to people we perceive as "authoring" their own words and actions, people who do not speak from a script or behave in preprogrammed ways.

In other words, we grant authority to people we perceive as living undivided lives."
oh, the undivided life. palmer speaks of life on the mobius strip, it is the image below - where the inner and outer ring are both visible and open to the self and the surrounding community. there is no divide between the two.

these are the people i grant true authority in my life. all others are suspect.

sexuality was immediate endowment of authority in the first 30 years of my life. if you were male you were given authority by god in my life. it didn't matter if you spoke truth, spoke love, had god's or my best interests at heart, you had authority. much confusion, and consequently much destruction and anger stemmed from that distortion of scripture in my life.

i still struggle to this day to distinguish truth from falsehood if spoken by someone in authority. the tapes in my brain kick in and i am left with much confusion until the truth is distinguished from the lies. it is a process of untangling. i'm getting better at it, but it still brings me a lot of anxiety.

that is why what nouwen writes about compassionate authority almost brings me to tears. what would the church, better yet, the kingdom be like if those 'in power' lead with compassionate authority? my husband liam is one of those men. it's suprising that many are threatened by this. many of the students who are raised to respect 'powerful authority' don't respond to his teaching and shy away from his ministry.

people living out true authority and compassion call us to a higher plane - call us to live lives of authenticity and compassion ourselves. my friend wes is that kind of leader too. liam and i are reading his book reclaiming god's original intent for the church together each morning. it is so refreshing to hear of the hopeful call to restore what has been lost, to reclaim those things that have been stolen. to redeem those places that the locust have eaten in the church.

these are the kind of people i grant authority to. people who live those undivided lives. who practice what they preach. who own their own junk, and do it in a way that makes me want to own mine. i love these men. they restore those places deep in my soul that have been wounded, strip mined and abused. they restore my faith in humanity, and the divine. thank you!

No comments: