My Quest for Power
As I look at the pieces I created for my “Quest for Power” exhibit, I see bits and pieces of my younger self in each piece. It is like a walk down memory lane.
A dark one.
A desperate one.
A redeemed one.
My struggle with power and control started when I was five. It came with the pronouncement from a doctor, “You have type 1 diabetes.” This diagnosis sent my parents into a frenzy and me into a world of fear.
All of a sudden, I wasn’t a carefree child anymore. I needed to adhere to a rigid, structured life, daily data collection, measured food consumption, scheduled exercise, attendance to more doctors appointments than most, and then watch as my amazing parents tried to maintain control over a disease that could easily end in death. Yes, they were really the ones in control while I was so young, but I absorbed the understanding that if I wasn’t in control, I was not OK. This might not have been a truth to live by, but my five year self didn’t know any better.
My quest for power and control didn’t stop at blood sugar readings and carb counting, it also manifested itself in school. I was determined to excel and have nothing but straight As. To me, that felt like complete control and success. Unlike my diabetes...I could study and work hard and get the results I craved. The formula worked and that put my heart at ease. Anything less felt like I was failing. If I didn’t get the A, I was not OK.
There were much smaller manifestations of control in my life...needing to make my bed everyday, needing to control everything my little brother did (I’m so sorry, Aaron!), meeting every expectation placed on me, whether expressed or implied (or even imagined). Where did this quest take me? It landed me in a 8-year battle with eating disorders and depression. It isolated me from the people who loved me the most. It made me less than human and far from what I was designed to be. As I struggled with anorexia and then later the roller coaster ride of binge eating and exercise, I plummeted into depression.
My family would do their best to help, but I would lash out with angry, hurtful words. I held friends at a distance and kept things very surface-y. There didn’t seem to be anything to be happy about anymore, but I was very good at hiding it. I turned off all emotions so that I could perform the tasks that were expected of me. But I felt like a husk. Dead inside and wasting away. In essence, my quest for power made me get smaller and smaller, physically, emotionally and spiritually. At the height of my struggle. I weigh 110 pounds. If I went under that number, my parents told me they would pull me out of college. I held the line because school was too important to me.
Throughout my journey, I attended counselling, which slowly, but surely, helped me see that the truths I was living by were not, in fact, true. Anti-depression medication helped clear the fog I was in as well so I could do the healing heart and head work that needed to happen.
In my quest for absolute power over myself and the world around me, I completely lost control. As I mentioned in my artist talk, what I discovered in this battle was that I was hungering for something that was never meant to be mine. I had to come to grips with the reality that I will never be completely in control. That is for God alone and if I wanted to make it in this life and have any peace, any joy, and any semblance of purpose, I needed to surrender to His control and give up the quest for my own power.
Can I tell you what made the most difference in my life and got me to a place of surrender rather than conquest? For over a year, I continually asked God, “What do you want to say to me?” As you can imagine, He wasn't feeling very present during those hard years and nothing felt clear regarding my relationship with Him. It was kind of a dare….tell me how horrible I am, tell me how much of a fake I am, hypocrite, disaster, etc….
You know what He spoke to my heart every single time I asked, and without any hesitation,
“I love you.”
And I knew that wasn’t just me because I was NEVER have said that to myself. I loathed myself entirely. The answer to this question made me furious. He was supposed to tell me to straighten up, do this, this, and this to make things right, etc. Nope. Just a simple declaration of love that I refused to accept. Until I came upon this Psalm that just shattered me.
I won’t quote the whole thing, just the verse that changed everything.
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
The verses leading up to this one speaks of God coming down in a rage and with fierce action to save and protect His child. The imagery is stunning and certainly touches my artist’s heart, but what got me was this pronouncement by the psalmist...the rescue was not out of duty or so that now God could hold something over his head...it was out of pure, delighting love. Thrilling love, not obligatory. Love that has nothing to do with performance or appearance. The kind of love that a mother has for her newborn baby. It’s un-explainable and it’s pure. Love that also says..."I like you."
This verse sent me to the ground sobbing. I finally got it. He had been telling me over and over that He loved me, but I wasn’t hearing Him. He wouldn’t move beyond that declaration to my heart because He knew I needed this before anything else could happen in my life. I couldn’t willingly surrender my quest for power unless I knew I could trust Him. Unless I knew He really, truly delighted in me.
I’m not sure why this verse helped pulverize all the walls around my heart but it did and I turned around and stopped seeking power and started seeking God with everything I was worth. I’m still in the middle of this journey, but the trajectory has completely changed and so have I.
And guess what? I’m fifty pounds heavier, eat when I’m hungry and sometimes when I’m not. I find joy in the struggles of life. I laugh in the midst of tears...two emotions not available to me in the midst of my depression. I play. I strive to do my best, but I’m OK with failure. And…..
I NEVER, EVER make my bed. I probably never will….too much other good stuff to do.
So that’s the story of my quest for power. I hope that it encourages you to take a hard look at your own quest. Where will it take you?