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  • Writer's pictureDelphia Simmons

More Powerful Than We Know

With every season of life and every level of growth, it seems a reconciliation of our understanding and use of power is required. It’s easy to confuse our internal power with what power looks like externally. What I’ve learned about the difference is holding me up now as I move through the feelings of powerlessness that come along with challenging health experiences.

Like me, my power is still here and greater than what health challenges want me to believe. This is something I know, one of the lessons that has shaped my six decades and continues to reinforce my belief in the importance of others knowing their innate power, too. Some of my awakening came through books. Isn’t that always one of the best ways to learn? Reading is the ultimate life-changing power.

The first book that I recall reading that had power referenced in the title was Richard J. Foster’s Money, Sex, and Power. It was the 1980s. I was in my 20s, struggling to obey the rules of good Christianity. The book was a best-seller in the Christian genre--even with the word sex in the title. Since the author was a Quaker minister, I felt safe that I wasn't going to run into anything salacious. The book’s subtitle, The Challenge of a Disciplined Life, gave me hope: this was something I knew a little about.

Growing up, I learned about the “D word” under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence P. Wyatt, my first real pastor. Discipline was one of his favorite words and everyone knew it, including his peers in ministry who often joked about it. I grew to appreciate, value, and expect integrity in leadership under his teaching. I think it was his stint in the military early in his life, combined with his degrees in theology, which created his “Soldier in God’s Army” persona. But he lived the disciplined life that he preached and taught about. Every week I left church with the resolve to be better, and every week I missed the lofty goals I set for myself. SMART goals were not a thing yet.

My weekly visits to “The Altar” for prayer and being baptized for a third time seemed to be yielding zero headway. My inward dialogue was pretty brutal and could be counted on to call me “everything but a child of God.”

Fortunately, Foster’s book began to disrupt my thinking with a new idea. He focused on our own innate internal power as humans: control of self and

not of others, a power that is greater than the specter of dark powers ruling the world, believed by some to be winning. According to some, the best we could do as Christians was to hunker down in our bunkers and wait for Jesus to beam us out, leaving the horrible world behind.

Up until that point, I had only read about power in the Bible, and through a lens of legalism, which meant God would give me power only if I earned it. Legalism obscured God’s grace. At the other end of the spectrum were those who checked all the boxes of being a five-star Christian but whose discomfort with power wouldn’t even allow them to receive a compliment without deflecting it to God, lest He smite them.

In hindsight, among the most prevalent abuses of power in those days was abuse of our true selves. This abuse obscured our purpose and kept us from becoming fully acquainted with the God power innate in each one of us. But as sci-fi writer Kameron Hurley says, power requires something more than understanding. “Power is nothing without discipline. Power without discipline is short-lived.” I agree. My understanding of power could not have had a better wingman than discipline.

We have all witnessed how power can be used in harmful ways. Powerful personas are created based on popularity and mistaken for true power. But if you look closely, it’s like the Wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain is a person who is using implements that mimic power. From seemingly powerful celebrities and Hollywood couples to politicians, we have all seen behind the curtain of what has passed for power.

But what we’ve seen is distraction and distortion, not real power. Knowing and questioning the difference starts with understanding that power begins with self-mastery, especially over our thoughts and actions and how we show up in the world. What those focused on external power forget is simple and sad: You can’t skip understanding and mastering yourself. It’s like a dog on a leash. Eventually, it’s gonna yank you back.

Fortunately, we all get to choose our power, all the time. There is no shortage of opportunities to understand our innate power to shape our lives, by how we choose to live and where we invest our time, money, and attention. Each one of these choices determines who and what thoughts hold external power in our lives.

I’ve learned that mastering this knowledge--especially now--is divine, true power.

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