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“Authority is all about telling people what to do.” We all had a good chuckle about that at the insanity household last night. Authority, as in having complete control, as in telling people what to do…. as in trying to herd cats. Yes, totally, authority is all about telling people what to do and availing yourself of their blind obedience. People are all like happy puppies and they will follow you contentedly because they have to, because you are the boss….Uh, no, not so much.

Sometimes these narrow and misunderstood definitions remind me of a 20 something college grad who now thinks themselves qualified to be your new CEO, to be the boss, to tell people what to do. It doesn‘t ever occur to some of these people that life is complex, that leadership is a skill not learned in a text book somewhere, that they are seeing only the glory of power and not the horror of responsibility and hard work.

I collect these little nuggets of misunderstanding, often on the internet, when trying to speak of faith, of marriage, of politics. Authority is so misunderstood, so perverted, so feared, and for good reason because there are some atrocious examples of what it looks like, of authority gone wrong, of arrogant men, of dictators and banana  republics. Then there are broken and wounded mothers too, and the hand that rocks the cradle can rule your world, in ways that are not so good, keeping you trapped in deceptions and strongholds for decades.

We had a laugh about this at our house, a house often filled with defiant people, with teenagers and mother in laws, with couch crashers, and friends. Sometimes you can tell people what to do and they simply listen to your wisdom, but for the most part people need to figure things out themselves, often by trial and error, often by doing things the hard way. Such is human nature I suppose. It needn’t be, but it is what it is.

We had a laugh at our house, but it’s actually a heartbreaking issue because often problems around authority keep people separate from God Himself, keep people trapped in fear, in wounded and broken relationships, in defiance and rebellion against just about everything. Defiance can be a good thing, there are things our spirits know are just not right, things we recoil from for good reason. Or defiance can become a state of being, where you cannot even surrender to the good things, where you stubbornly insist on doing everything your own way, because no one is ever going to tell me what to do.

People’s defiance has always puzzled me, my own defiance has always puzzled me. Sometimes with kids you may tell them to buckle up so they will be safe in the car, a perfectly reasonable and logical thing, a thing for their own benefit, and yet they will revolt anyway. Sometimes you can tell a hubby to eat his veggies, also logical and wise, and yet he will instantly resist and become defiant. In nursing I deal with this a lot too, I’m not trying to be bossy or anything, but you simply must comply with your own health. If you refuse, what have you won in this power struggle? Where is the payoff?

To surrender all to Jesus Christ, to the Creator of the universe, that one seems simple and obvious to me. I mean, here is God and here is you. Like it or not, you are simply not the one in control. Life happens, God happens, and eventually death happens. All of these things are beyond the scope of your control. You are free to resist if you like, but that doesn’t change the nature of your existence or the fact that God has authority. God’s authority  really is loving too, and not simply about telling people what to do.

In marriage we have numerous problems around the concept of egalitarian marriages. For one, life is never fair or equal at all times and power is never perfectly balanced. Having equal worth and value, now that is an awesome thing, but the idea that there is going to be sameness there, that one can give in equal measure to what another gives, is problematic. Also problematic is anyone, men or women, who go into marriage thinking no one is ever going to tell me what to do, or even, ah, now I finally get to tell someone else what to do. Both statements come from a place of deficit, of wounding. Whether defense or offense, you’re going into marriage as if it were a battle zone, and you’ve brought your luggage, all your ammo with you.

People of course, are free to have marriage anyway they want, and you should, you should do what works for you. Somewhat funny however, the number of people who try to tell me that I’ve got it all wrong, speak loudly to that obsessive need for control I try to advise against.