Life was a lot easier for me when I was a small boy. Everything was exciting and new. I wanted to climb on everything I saw. I was excited to wake up and start a new day of running around outside, playing with my friends! I lived in a bouncing little ‘happy bubble’ that floated wherever my parents went.
And of course as a small child, I was utterly dependent on my parents for my survival. They provided the house I lived in, the clothes I wore, and the food I ate. They mostly chose what toys I had or didn’t have to play with. (My Dad refused to buy me a G.I. Joe because he thought it was a boy’s doll) Their opinions became my opinions. Their beliefs became my beliefs. Because they were my ultimate authorities on everything!
I lived in a wonderfully magical world of childhood! I might be lying on soft green grass with my 5-year-old friend Jeff watching the soft white fluffy clouds, exploring the inside a dog house, chasing butterflies under bright blue skies during recess, walking through a wonderful strong-smelling apple orchard, catching grasshoppers, feeling their strong hind legs pushing into the palm of my hand as they tried to make their escape, watching my Mom turn around in the front car seat halfway to church so she could give me a bright, shiny dime to put into the plastic little church whose steeple would light up when I put my dime into the slot. And I was really curious about the little black boy sitting in front of me whose tight curly hair that was different from my hair. I wondered why his palms were pink while his skin was black. We all wore bright yellow rubber rain coats with black galoshes to school on rainy days! And those buckles! Oh my! Walking home from school while casually kicking through all the fallen maple leaves was wonderful! I could go on. . .
But I won’t. I am starting to sound like an old fart recounting my life. . .anyway. . .
As wonderful as this time was, I was at the complete mercy of my parents.
I had no power.
Which is fine for young children. But as the years went on, my brain was blue-printed with Baptist fundamentalist beliefs that kept me powerless, and even taught me a form of learned helplessness.
For I was taught the Bible was our final word in faith and practice. The AUTHORITY of GOD’S WORD, (the Bible), was supreme over all! Nothing trumped the teachings within the Bible. Nothing!
Not my opinions, not factual evidence to the contrary, not scientific discoveries, not factual science books, and especially not other religious ideas! Only our particular theology was correctly aligned with what God had said to us in the Bible. So essentially, Fundamentalist theology EQUALED God’s Word to us.
And I was taught that the Bible was without error in all things. God had preserved His love letter to us down through the ages. The Holy Spirit spoke to me through the Bible, and perhaps my inner ‘promptings’ at times.
The Bible, my teachers and Pastors taught me that I didn’t own either my body or my life. My sole purpose here on planet earth was to serve and glorify God.
Since I did not own my life, I was powerless to create my own life!
“19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
I Corinthians 6: 19, 20
Baptist fundamentalism lied to me. It imprinted on me that my life was not my own. (It obviously is my own life!) Fundamentalism told me that I had been purchased (redeemed) out of a life of bondage to Satan, and now I serve a loving master, God my father. Since God has saved me, cleansed me, placed me into a position of fellowship with Him through Jesus, His son, and given me a new life, that my gratitude should be overwhelming to God! Since I could never repay this huge debt, the best I could do would be devoting my entire life to serving Him, glorifying Him in every action I take.
In other words, I am a slave to a different master. Salvation is really not a free gift.
However, I am still powerless. First I was taught that I was powerless in my sins. Now I am taught that I have no right of ownership of my life. I should not make specific plans for my own future, nor should I worry about finances, as my Father God (my new master) has everything under control, has a specific plan for me, and will make everything turn out just right according to His perfect plan for me.
Powerless. Ignorance. Unpreparedness.
So put into practice, this meant (to me anyway), that when I had a decision to make, I wouldn’t put much, if any, effort into gathering the best factual information that I could get, but would rather do these things;
- Pray about it
- Look for a verse in my daily devotion time or other time that seemed to have some bearing on my situation. If I did find a verse that fell into this category, then I would immediately presume that this was the Holy Spirit answering my prayer by directing me toward a certain action to take via what I read in my verse
- Talk to someone (or possible several folks) about my situation getting their advice
- Make a decision based upon how I felt inside combined with my verse that ‘confirmed’ my choice was God’s will for me
I note that 3 out of 4 of these items have no practical bearing on information gathering, analyzing, rationally choosing the best option, originating a realistic plan, then following through. I was more afraid of making the wrong choice because then God would use circumstances to punish me for not being in His will.
The people I talked to were ‘bigger’ than me in the sense that they knew more, had more stuff, seemed wiser than I. Of course this served to make me feel even more powerless at times. Over the course of my life, it has made me feel as if I am just a very small, unimportant person.
If I give all my personal power to an invisible being to care for me in every aspect of my life, I am essentially no different from a small wood chip floating on the surface of a fast-moving stream. It goes wherever the current takes it.
What if that wood chip believed the current was a loving, protecting God with a specific plan for its well-being? That poor little wood chip would truly be poor, having not educated itself about financial investing, savings, or having any ability or knowledge to create its own way! That wood chip would be much like a Baptist fundamentalist is taught to be, helpless, powerless, and utterly dependent upon external power and direction.
And that ‘happy bubble’ of childlike faith can turn into a festering sore buried inside a soothing blister of lies just ready to burst open into a shocking reality!
Today, I am reclaiming my own innate power. I am building my own boundaries. But honestly, after living, thinking, and feeling powerless for most of my life, it’s not like switching on a light. This takes time. A lot of time. And patience and grace for myself.