Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marching Soldier Guy

Many teenagers experience their first real taste of power the day they dawn the red shorts and sling the lifeguard whistle around their neck. They are suddenly transformed from the sleepy, gangly kid who just slept through Algebra class to the most powerful person in the room.

Ashley and I recently took our girls to a funplex pool, and we had a great time watching Avery and Sophie splash away, go down slides, and chase each other around.  Not only did I enjoy watching them play, but I also found myself relatively amused by the intensity of one of the lifeguards. He wore a permanent scowl as he marched the shores of the baby pool in a manner that resembled a soldier guarding the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” One thing was clear, this teenager was not to be messed with. He blew his whistle and yelled at one kid after the next for minor infractions.

Two Troublemakers
I wasn’t nearly as amused when I found myself on the receiving end of the lifeguard's wrath. The piercing shriek of the whistle nearly shattered my eardrums, and I turned around to see the scowl directed at me. This time it wasn’t from the marching soldier guy, but it was from a teenage girl who was equally as angry. You would have thought I had just been caught beating her dog with a stick, but my real mistake was simply trying to take Sophie down a slide. “No adults on the slide!” she growled.
A few minutes later, Avery and I were floating around the lazy river. We stopped for a few seconds to look at something when I found myself in the crosshairs again. Marching soldier guy blew his whistle, and with the fury of a New York City traffic cop, motioned for me to keep going.  I smiled as I continued to float along, thinking about how he still has a few things to learn regarding the true purpose of authority.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am thankful for lifeguards. Most of them really do a nice job ensuring the safety of kids. There are others though who appear to receive too much pleasure from touting their power.
The whole scenario got me thinking about the importance of handling power and authority well. My mind flashed back to the scene where Jesus was gathered around the table with His disciples at the last supper, and He did something remarkable.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)
Jesus was fully aware of his power, but he chose to humbly serve. The One who created all things got down on his hands and knees and did the work of a slave. He went from one disciple to the next, picked up their dirty, smelly feet and scrubbed them clean. What King does that?

In this moment, Jesus provided a great picture of how God uses His authority. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that there is nothing more powerful than God; and yet, God always uses His authority for our good. He’s not like a teenage lifeguard who gets a thrill out of putting us in our place after every misstep. He’s not holding a paddle in His hand eagerly waiting to show us whose boss.
God has had to correct me countless times over the years, but I’ve been fascinated by how well He does it. There is a perfect blend of gentleness, kindness, strength, and consistency in His rebuke. He always speaks the truth, but He presents it in a way that’s easy to receive. His corrective words are saturated with love and grace.

Ultimately, I should seek to handle authority in the same manner. The way I handle my kids should resemble how God handles me. The way I lead people in the ministry should follow the example Jesus set.  God is looking for people who can handle authority, and when we prove ourselves trustworthy, we’ll be given more.
I want to encourage you to take some time and allow God to reveal how you’re doing in this area. Are you consistently using your power and authority for the good of others? Are you aware of what the people under your authority genuinely think about your leadership?

These may be tough questions to answer, but they are vitally important. My prayer is that we will all possess the courage to take a candid look at how we’re handling authority. 
And I pray for marching soldier guy to leave the poor kids alone.

No comments: