After the sun sets, we all face the same thing. When we go home at night, everyone has to walk into a space without any light. Stepping into the room, we stretch our arm along the wall until we find the right switch to flip and light welcomes us home.
This light gives us the confidence to walk into the room. Without it, we choose our steps more carefully in fear of tripping, running into something or slamming our foot against a piece of furniture. What gives us the courage to walk into a room without fear of falling is similar to the effect we hope to have on another person’s life.
It is the lamp that opens our eyes to the settings around us. That lamp keeps us from harming ourselves or feeling insecure about where our next step will land us. Which makes me think that our quest for purpose in this life is similar to the way a lamp gives off light.
The most interesting part about a lamp is that in a time of darkness, it is the first thing everyone wants. It is the first thing everyone sees but it does not shine light to anyone without also making itself easier to see. Even though a lamp is nothing without it’s source of power it is easy to forget about that when walking around in darkness.
Years ago, I worked at a department store. At the time I was in college studying retail management so it was the perfect job. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the customers and the way everything was constantly changing whether it was the layout or just the inventory.
My coworkers and I got along very well, there were a few personality clashes but there was one associate by the name of Candace* that everyone adored. Candace was kind and never complained. She was always positive even though she was in need of a big break. Her time came when she got a promotion to supervisor.
Everyone was happy about the promotion and we were ready to work under her supervision. It came as a surprise that during the first month with Candace in charge, she began to change. She seemed to like all of the perks that came with her new position and began to take advantage of them.
We like it when people look our way. We want people to pay attention to us and we want to be seen. A lot of people want others to notice the good things that they do. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a little bit of attention or celebration over something we did right but when this becomes the only reason we do anything, there is a problem.
The people that she once considered friends did not feel like they could trust her anymore. When she was still an associate, she used to break little rules from the handbook like texting and making calls during her shift or bringing snacks to eat at her register. As a supervisor she began to write up the people that she once shared those snacks with and she was tough about the cell phone usage even proposing to the district manager that they should check the employees for cell phones before leaving the breakroom.
After a few months of working like this, she became more demanding. She wrote up a stockroom associate one day for eating a cough drop during his shift. She began criticizing the work everyone else was doing and asking people to complete unrealistic tasks like re-arranging a crowded aisle in two hours or less. The same people that once loved her became afraid of her and the atmosphere changed from hopeful to depressing.
After months of complaints from the associates, the manager took disciplinary action against Candace and she was eventually demoted back to an associate with less hours than she had begun with. No one wanted to talk to her, if she entered the breakroom people would leave or mutter rude things under their breath. Candace’s “big break” turned into the very thing that broke her.
We all want to be wanted, to know that we are useful and that we have the power to influence what happens around us. Like anything, this natural instinct can turn into something destructive. The desire for power can quickly become an obsession.
Power is not necessarily a bad thing but without wisdom and selflessness it will not be the productive attribute it was made to be. Having power without good intentions will always lead to someone getting hurt. A desire to be a positive influence on the world around us, rather than being someone with an unfocused sense of power, is an admirable goal and one that is possible.
Power is not necessarily a bad thing but without wisdom and selflessness it will not be the productive attribute it was made to be.
Like the lamp in a room, we like it when people look our way. We want people to pay attention to us and we want to be seen. A lot of people want others to notice the good things that they do. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a little bit of attention or celebration over something we did right but when this becomes the only reason we do anything, there is a problem.
One day I entered the breakroom to eat my lunch. I thought I was alone because of the silence in the room but as I opened my locker I began to hear someone sobbing. I turned the corner to see Candace sitting at the table in the corner. She was crying but when she saw me she quickly turned her head and tried to pretend like everything was okay. I brought her some tissues and sat down next to her.
We talked for my entire lunch break about everything going on with her and one of the things I will never forget is what she said about why she acted that way in the first place. She said “I just wanted people to to respect me… I needed someone to think I mattered.” She went on to say that after a while of abusing her position, she didn’t feel like she was doing enough. She said she became obsessed with thinking of ways to assert her authority and that if she couldn’t make someone afraid of her, she didn’t feel like she was doing her job.
A constant desire to have attention, even if it is negative attention, could be a sign of pride issues and selfishness. It is healthy to take pride in something we do well but when that becomes the only thing that matters to us, we are setting up our lives for disaster. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (ESV)
A haughty attitude means that a person feels more important than most people and that others are not worthy of the same level of respect. When it is broken down like that, it becomes a little hard to believe that any of us could be this way to anyone. That is why we must stay aware of our intentions.
The problem with wanting more power than we are given is that we were never meant to handle it. We were made to be strong and influential but not by ourselves. It is in God’s strength working through us that we can know true and meaningful power. Ephesians 6:10 says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (ESV) so we should never build ourselves up so far that we force our authority over other people.
Pastor John Piper said a thought-provoking thing about our power compared to God’s. He said “It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.”
Just as a lamp is nothing without the source, we are the same way. When the electricity goes out in a building, the same lamp that once saved the day becomes a useless item on a shelf. We have this struggle with God over power and purpose. We try to build ourselves up to be something great.
The Bible says that the Lord already thinks something special of us. In Isaiah 43.4-5 “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you” (ESV)
The Lord already thinks wonderful things about us! He calls us precious in his sight and he says that he loves us. The Lord wants us to know that we are valuable and made with a great purpose. He doesn’t ask us to get through life on our own, relying completely on our own abilities. When we understand that God has made us with a great purpose, we can better understand why there is such a problem when we let our pride, ego and hunger for power rule the way we live our lives.
Our struggle with power will end like any fight or struggle, the only way to make it stop is for one party to give up or be defeated. When you try to win a struggle with power, your options are not always going to give you the best possible outcome. Your fight will either lead you to a point where you have to throw in the towel or worse, be defeated.
The Lord does not want us to live defeated lives. He is not happy to think about us crying alone in a breakroom at a job where everyone hates us. He wants us to be victorious in our battles over things that affect our character and lives. The Lord wants to help us in our fight with addictions, even addictions to power and control.
When we just let it go and be humble for God, the struggle begins to stop because we are no longer carrying a burden that is too large to hold by ourselves. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 it says “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you.” The Lord will work through us to lay those issues to rest.
The same chapter goes on to say in verses 10-11 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
God does not leave us alone to pick up the pieces. He will establish us, strengthen us and settle our hearts. Eventually people began to forgive Candace. She even developed deeper friendships with the people she had wronged. She gave her heart to the Lord and she is now the manager of a store in Southern California where she met her husband.
When we give our struggles to the Lord, he can make us into the beautiful creation we were made to be. All the time we were trying to be the lamp in the highest point in a room or wanted to be the brightest lamp in the house, the Lord is waiting for us to humble ourselves so he can use us in ways that we never thought about before.
God is giving us the choice to bring his light to more people than we can even count or to remain the brightest light in one, single room. We can chose to give the power to the Lord and trust that he is in control or we can keep trying to rule everything on our own and live a life that is less than we were made for. The choice for our source is completely up to us.
*Names have been changed to protect identity