Last Sunday at Middle Church, my pastor Jacqui Lewis preached the typical Christmas story. Halfway through the sermon, however, she paused, looked up, and asked the congregants, "should I stop here? Because you already know this story though don't you?"
"Mmmhhmm, we know it," people murmured.
Jacqui continued, "But the story does not end with the birth of a baby boy in a stable. The story continues. . . because this baby made a difference. This baby was a healer. But Jesus did not try and make a difference on his own, he appointed disciples and gave them jobs. He wielded influence, and he gave orders. He looked at his disciples, pointed at them, and ordered, 'YOU, heal the sick, and YOU feed the hungry, and YOU help the poor.' What he demanded of his followers is that they TOO be healers. He annointed them as such." She ended the sermon with a similar demand, "now YOU go out into this world and be HEALERS as well."
It was quite the demand, but as we shuffled out of the church into the cold, there was a shift in spirit. People felt EMPOWERED.
POWER. The word makes me shutter. It makes me think of greed, politicians, manipulation, and deception. More often than not, I view it as a corrupting force that elicits terrible actions in good people. The word holds connotations that surely are more negative than good, most likely because we have seen what happens when people take a drink from it. But it doesn't have to be as such, and it is time we re-evaluate what it means to be powerful.
Caroline Myss explains in her book "Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices that Create Miracles" that every action we do and every word we think is an act of power. She writes, "every action is an exchange of power between two people, no matter if that action is altruistic or acquisitive."
If power exists in the most simple exchanges--any interaction between two people--then regardless of whether I believe I hold power, I exercise it. Of course, I don't always use my power for good. When I snap at my siblings or am impatient in line or say a comment to a close one that I know will cause pain, I am influencing the world around me. I can just as easily bring negativity to a situation with one snide comment or instantly hurt someone's feelings with a twist of the mouth.
But it's Christmas, so I don't want to take about how power can cause suffering. I'd rather talk about how our power can alleviate suffering. How a smile at a person on the street can validate a human's existence, how a kind word of encouragement can help one's self-esteem, how a piece of food can ease one's hunger. But, we don't need to remember "to do lists of kind acts," we just need to remember that the nice things we do are powerful, and, once we remember that, we can remember that we have the power to be healers.
I'm not saying this to encourage grandiose feelings of self, I'm saying this so that we can start to believe our selves are full of grandeur. You and me, friend and reader, are healers. We have this power. And, fortunately or unfortunately, it exists whether we believe it or not or whether we align our actions to this belief. Instinctively and innately, we are gifted with a set of tools that can bring people relief--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And, intuitively, we know when we should do an act of healing, we just need to start listening to this intuition.
So, if this is true (as I believe it is), that we all have the power to heal, then how do we use these powers? This is what I'm still trying to figure out, debating between enlisting myself into a Buddhist monastery, starting my own non-profit, or moving to a random village in a developing nation and beginning my life anew (aka trying to accomplish "BIG" things) OR inching along down my path and challenging myself to be a healer in the smallest, most mundane, interactions during the day. The latter is certainly more boring, but at the end of the day, all we have is the small interactions--my most lofty goals are compiled of only small acts and interactions. And in these small actions, the subtlety of beauty and healing exists. So, in my journey towards something "bigger" (or maybe nothing big at all), my true test of power is in my daily encounters.
Perhaps quoting Mother Theresa's statement that "we cannot do great things -- only small things with great love," would be a cliche. But, I'm willing to be cliche, to shine light on a statement that holds great meaning. Aiming to do great things is a commendable goal, but aiming to be great when doing the small things is the true test. And, as healers, we must not see even the small things as small, because within the small rests the expansive opportunity to touch another in kindness.
I, for one, cannot flippantly throw aside Mother Theresa's wisdom as a cliche because my struggle against my own power is alive each and every day. There are times when I see myself as healer in the smallest of moments and there are times when I see myself as a helpless and frustrated bystander. This fluctuation has subsisted in me for as long as I can remember. There are days when I wake up and I am ready to fight the current and there are days when I'd much prefer to merely float down the river. But the days I choose to float is only is when I wake up under the false pretense that I am powerless.
So, today, on the birth of a baby boy who became one of the world's most famous Healers, I am going to awaken my own healing powers as well, wielding my power to alleviate suffering even in the smallest of acts, starting with . . . unloading the fricking dishwasher.