Today I want to share a story about one of my most powerless moments.
I tend to be a jack of all trades – I may never be the best in any situation, but it’s rare that I don’t think I can find a solution or address an issue with some level of competency.
One day, when I was sitting at my desk working, my wife called me from the pool. She told me, with a shaky voice, that our son had “gone under water for a long time – he received CPR and is breathing now, but the ambulance is on the way.”
I went into protective dad mode, wanting to help, wanting to do whatever I could do make sure our son was ok. But I wasn’t at the pool. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t watch our daughter to make sure she stayed safe as well. I didn’t even really know what was going on!
To make matters worse, I didn’t have a car available, so I had to wait for my mother-in-law to come pick me up. As I paced back and forth in my bedroom, I did the only thing I could think of – I dropped to my knees and prayed.
I asked God to do what only He could do. I asked Him to keep my son alive and protect him from ongoing health issues. We don’t know how long our son was under water, only that he was unconscious when he was pulled out of the pool.
In the end, we were very fortunate. The quick CPR our son received saved his life. We spent the afternoon at the hospital, monitoring his lungs to ensure there was no water in them. There were no neurological problems. The words “non-fatal drowning” were written on his medical charts, and he was cleared to go home that night.
Everything was ok in the end, but it was a traumatic event, and one that has shaped us and will continue to do so for years to come.
8 Months Later – Processing My Powerless Moment
It’s taken me some time to process that day. I tend to be far more rational than emotional, but almost losing your son is a pretty emotional experience. Since I’m fairly weak in my emotional processing, I’ve worked with a counselor and it’s been really helpful.
One day he asked me to try and remember the way I felt in my bedroom after my wife called – the moment I dropped to my knees in prayer. “Powerless” was how I felt, and I did not like it.
I tend to be protective – I constantly have my eyes out for dangers and problems. This is doubly true when it comes to my own children, so you can imagine how I felt when my son needed protection and I couldn’t do a thing.
I wrestled in prayer over this powerless feeling. I did not like feeling that way and I was disgruntled with God for putting me in a powerless position. I prayed, “God, I’ve never felt so powerless in my life. Why put me through that?”
And then the light bulb went off. Jesus’s words in John 15:4-5 hit me:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
I suddenly realized that, despite my alleged competence, I’ve always been powerless without God.
I was also reminded of my inability to save myself. As Ephesians 2:4-5 says,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
I was a sinner, dead in my trespasses. As powerless as I felt when my son needed saving, the truth is I was even more powerless to save myself from my own sin.
There was literally nothing I could do to reconcile myself to God – I had to rely completely on Jesus and his work.
Abide in Him
For years I have had a rational knowledge that I could do nothing unless I was with God, but in practice I still took more credit for myself than I deserved. This event, this moment of powerlessness, made my need for God so much more real.
I still don’t like the feeling of being powerless, but I also know that God used this event to draw me closer to Him. He has taught me to depend on Him more, to trust Him, and to seek after His grace in my life.
Fortunately, we are not forced to depend on someone who is a jerk. We are called to depend on a good Father who loves us. Later in John 15, Jesus says the following:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
We are invited into a loving relationship that is meant to fill us with joy. There is a cost: I had to sacrifice my pride and admit my own inadequacies.
But I also know that the joy of dependence is far better than the joy of arrogance.
Becoming a Better Servant Leader
Every competent leader will struggle with moments of pride. These moments can grow and morph and turn into self-serving actions. We think, “great leaders deserve great treatment” and start putting ourselves before others.
But as a follower of Jesus, we are called to something different. We are called to serve those we lead. Depending on God will naturally keep us from focussing on our own abilities and greatness. Recognizing Him as the source of all fruit helps us ensure we give the glory to Him.
And so, by recognizing my own powerlessness, God has helped me to become a better servant leader. I recognize my need for Him more than ever, and I’m leaning into His power and work like never before.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Remember those words when you think you are not enough. Remember, when you are weak you are made strong. Lean into the Lord, and trust in His power instead of your own, and you shall be a better servant leader.