8 Ways To Hold Our Powerlessness With Humility

by Mark Votava


I have learned that colonialism and powerlessness do not go together.  Why is colonialism so common in North America?  Well maybe because the foundations of our country started through the violent colonialism of the Native people to take their land by massive murder all in the name of God.  Pretty pathetic!

Because of colonialism we cannot seem to embody an authentic humility of powerlessness, listening, solidarity and compassion.  Where have we gone wrong?  I lament of what I have seen in this wealthy, exploitive country of North America where the dream is to be powerful, popular and proud in the name of God.

I have struggled to live in my powerlessness myself as I encounter a church that tells me to be arrogant, judgmental and colonial.  But I am finding that the church doesn’t practice the ways of Jesus most of the time.  They are too concerned with their wealth and keeping the status quo under control.

I am coming to understand that Jesus lived in a powerlessness.  He lived in humility, in simplicity as a poor man who had really nothing.  It would be great if we learned to honor the humility, powerlessness and simplicity of Jesus instead of some American Dream in the name of God.

If you are concerned about this, here are 8 ways we can learn to hold our powerlessness with humility.

1. Come to a place of acceptance of our powerlessness

We hate powerlessness.  We want to be powerful people, but the truth is that we all partake of the cup of our own powerlessness.  Humility is manifested when we embrace our powerlessness in the parish.  In fact, there is no clearer manifestation of humility.

2. Humble ourselves before each other

Our powerlessness is where relational revelations happen as we learn to humble ourselves before one another in everyday life.  Powerlessness reveals to us that the control we try so hard to hold onto is just an illusion.  We cannot control life, not even our lives.

3. Give up the illusion of our control

We cannot control others.  We cannot control the local context we live in.  Why do we hold onto control?  Maybe we are too insecure to embrace our own powerlessness.

4. Do not resent our powerlessness

Henri J.M. Nouwen writes, “What keeps us from opening ourselves to the reality of the world?  Could it be that we cannot accept our powerlessness and are only willing to see those wounds that we can heal?  Could it be that we do not want to give up our illusion that we are masters over our world and, therefore, create our own Disneyland where we can make ourselves believe that all events of life are safely under control?  Could it be that our blindness and deafness are signs of our own resistance to acknowledging that we are not the Lord of the Universe?  It is hard to allow these questions to go beyond the level of rhetoric and to really sense in our innermost self how much we resent our powerlessness.

5. Let go of all “ministry” techniques

Our Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship embraced our powerlessness by letting go of the controlled meeting spaces we once occupied.  We had to let go of the “ministry” technique of impressive use of language and attractional growth.  We have suffered criticism for seemingly choosing to “destroy” what we once created.  The truth is we embraced powerlessness when we stepped into a new and untried theology of place.

6. Come to an awareness that everything is a gift

Within that powerlessness, we’ve discovered that we no longer have control over our embodied expression together and the network of relationships that develop through it.  Our powerlessness has shown us everything is a gift.  It is organic and destroys the illusion of control.  Our neighborhood has showed us our powerlessness through the pain and difficulties we experience in everyday life together.

7. Embody a relational truth that is authentic and honest

We can no longer talk to one another in clichés and propositions.  Our local context and our relationships demand of us so much more truth than that.  We are learning to embody a relational truth that is authentic and honest.  Our powerlessness moves us out of the status quo.

8. Become friends with our powerlessness

We have learned to become friends with our powerlessness because it will not go away.  It comes with the territory of a holistic, embodied counterculture.  We cannot escape our powerlessness.  So we must embrace it with humility.

Do you fear your own powerlessness?