UPSIDE-DOWN POWER DYNAMICS
Updated: Feb 24
Repent! [turn from your corrupt, incorrect, unjust ways of doing things] for the Kingdom of G-d is at hand (Matt 3:2; Matt 4:17; in brackets are my own thoughts). John the Baptist and Jesus went around making similar statements often. If you study the context and meaning of the words in their original language, (which I will not be doing here) you will find that Jesus is saying that His Kingdom, a place where the will of the heavens is fulfilled on Earth, has already begun but has not yet reached its fulfillment. Many have referred to it as an upside-down kingdom. But really, it’s the kingdoms of Earth that are upside down. The heavens have always been right-side up and the great hope of every Believer is that one day these two realms will perfectly align.
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place where honor and favor are bestowed on those whom the natural world considers lowly or of little value. Imagine with me for a moment a world in which every Christian actually lived as if they believed that the Kingdom is here but not yet fully realized. Can you picture it? Of course, you can’t. Neither can I. Want to know why? Because our imagination sucks. Our imaginations are entangled with the systems, organizations, and governments that we created to try and restore order. When we obtain power, even with the best intentions, we inevitably perpetuate the tactics we once denounced and expend a lot of energy trying to hold on to that power.
If I’m being honest, I will tell you that I am not beyond this trap. No one is. Being seen and heard when you are burning with stories to tell is intoxicating. The opportunity to influence and shape the “thought life” of others through my words is not a small thing. Even before I started the blog or began writing the book, I was speaking over and into the lives of my incredibly vulnerable patients and their families. Imagine what having 100k social media followers or selling a million copies of my book could do.
Leading up to this interview, I have been seeking the Lord to help me inhabit this space differently than most. I have learned how to do that in medicine but it took a long time to stop comparing my performance with other physicians and worrying that I was lacking in some way. The only way I can endure the public eye, even on a small scale, without losing myself is to surrender my power to Christ each and every day. He knows how to carry it well and avoid the trappings. He knows when it’s wise to be silent and when to speak. He has a window into every human heart to understand intentions, coping mechanisms, and emotional defenses. He knows where the landmines are hiding.
He is calling me into a pretty terrifying place right now. Exposure is not something I have ever found to be thrilling, and yet, He is clearly requiring it of me in this season. I am not a powerful person but my stories are. My mistakes and tragedies have become evidence of His power at work in my life. The conviction I have about His goodness at work in the world in spite of the many horrors that collective sin and the spiritual forces of evil have unleashed on our world comes from having endured some pretty dark and desperate things. I will not hide my testimony. I will not keep my gifts wrapped up in their boxes. I will not give Him a "no" when He is asking for my "yes." No moment I spent heart-sick with grief or lamenting my sorrows was wasted. I was never lost, abandoned, or without hope. The Lord was always with me. I surrendered my pain to Him and He took it so I could get free enough to process it in a healthy way. If I’m willing to give Him my pain, I have to be just as willing to give Him my platform, my successes, and my accolades. It’s already His anyway.
When power is given to Christians, we ought to hold it loosely and cautiously. We ought to be looking for the first occasion that comes along to surrender it back into the Lord’s hands. When I tell stories of elder abuse in nursing homes, I am surrendering my power to those who cannot speak for themselves. When I talk about how struggling with infertility and recurrent miscarriages brought me to the end of myself only for Jesus to pursue me there with open arms, I am empowering women who are isolating themselves and succumbing to despair over these very same things. When I write about the psychological effects of having alopecia and my mental health challenges, I am helping to dismantle the power that self-loathing and depression may have over the lives of others.
I leave you with this thought. Out of all of the ways that G-d chose to redeem creation, he chose Jesus. For generations, He sought to work through the people of Israel. But the plan that didn’t fail was the plan that only required His faithfulness. The master architect of the universe who exists outside of time and space chose to bind himself to the natural laws that He created for Earth, confine Himself to a body made of flesh, and submit to the natural course of human life-- starting out as a helpless newborn and ending in brutal agony on the cross. If you ask most of us what the ultimate display of power is, we probably wouldn’t say "living as a human even though you are G-d" or "dying on a cross even though you have limitless power." He didn’t defeat death by causing a massive casualty event. He didn’t go to war with His enemies; He died for them.
We are deluded if we think our power plays or public overtures of aggression impress or please G-d. We are mistaken if we believe that every occasion of misused and abused power will not be avenged. This is the real enemy behind racism, the oppression of women, child abuse, police brutality, political unrest, and the massive corruption within the modern Christian church (just to name a few). I have no special immunity against falling prey to the very things I am calling out. I covet your prayers more than I do your praise. Let me never forget my place among the particles of dust. I’m immensely loved by G-d but also incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. Let my stories join the vast library of stories told since the dawn of humankind, contributing perhaps a comma or an ellipsis in the most beautiful, elaborate story ever told...G-d's redemption of the cosmos.