July 2018 - Who has the power?

Who has the power?


There was once an unforgivably stereotypical family. Perhaps they were like yours; but perhaps not.

The father got his own way by his brute strength. He was a difficult man, but even more difficult to argue with. If something stood in the way of what he wanted, then he was like the proverbial bull in a porcelain vendor. He could frighten people because of his physical presence, and remove obstacles by casting things and people aside. This man has physical power.

His wife was a diminutive presence, bird-like in her appearance, neither able to protect or project herself. She was cowed by her husband, and defenceless against him. Though physically weak, she was not without leverage in other ways, for she held the purse strings. This woman could make choices about where the family's money was spent; but there was more to this. She could choose whether to buy locally, purchase fairly traded products, pay others for their services, or give handouts to her children. She exercised, in her own small way, remarkable economic power.

The daughter was neither strong nor rich. She navigated the choppy waters of this family, but was a native and was reared amid these tides. She did not connive or reflect, but, boy, could she throw a strop. A princess without a crown, a drama queen fit for RADA. She could tug on your heart strings, trip you into guilt, and coerce you into relenting on almost every matter. This girl could use her emotional power like Yehudi Menuhin played the violin.

And then there was the son. Clever, wily and shrewd. He listened carefully and observed, gathering titbits of data, watching his family do their family thing. He collected and filed, gathered and stored all the little scraps that might one day be useful. Then, when he needed to use it, he would give his unfortunate focus a glimpse of what might be leaked or used against them. Without money, strength or emotional purchase, this boy would use his informational, coercive power to get his own way.

We all have power. We all have something we can use to get our own way, to get others to do what we want, whether this is because of our position or our expertise, or a whole range of other ways of rising above others. The questions is, are we aware of this, and do we choose to use it for good or for ill?

The divine conundrum is this: what if you hold all the power – omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence (all powerful, all knowing and all present), but choose not to use it to get your own way? Instead you offer love, relationship and blessing, and choose to empty yourself of power, to renounce the power that you have, and seek instead to serve.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the July 2018 issue of The Grapevine