This is the fifth blog in a series of ten (yes ten) by South Atlanta Community Facilitator, Dan Crain from a mini-book called, “Can you help me?
Principle Three: The Power Shifts
I still remember the look on his face when I asked him to pray for me. We had just completed the Bible Study in which I had led and we were sitting next to each other. I had a lot going on in my life at this point and I asked my friend that was living on the streets to pray for me. Something happened in the dynamic of our relationship. I was no longer the one that was in charge. Even though I have a Masters degree, ten years of ministry experience and just finished the Bible study I opened myself up to receiving help from my friend that was homeless and in that moment, the power in our relationship shifted.
Bob Lupton says, “There is a danger inherent with those who serve. Those who serve with good motives are often still the ones in charge. They hold the power. Power is not bad in and of itself, but it can become dangerous when it is not used properly. Rather than taking the time to get to know someone and truly understanding their real felt needs, there is the temptation to give them what we think they need.”
When those in charge hold the power they miss out on what the vulnerable have to offer. The power dynamic in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman is so interesting. He intentionally places himself in a position of vulnerability having to ask this woman for help.
Years ago as I was just beginning to understand Urban Ministry, I met with a friend and mentor, Donna Barber who has been doing urban ministry work for over twenty years. In one of our conversations she challenged me to intentionally put myself in contexts where I am not in charge or where I don’t hold the power in the relationship. Living into this is not easy, but it has given me such a unique perspective on a myriad of issues. Transferring the power from the giver to the receiver opens all sorts of possibilities for both parties.
Recently I was at my local gas station and along came Houston, a friend that lives on the streets that actually helped me move into my house. We have known Houston for four years now. Houston asked for a bite to eat and so we went to Subway to grab something. As we sat down he looked at me and said, “You’re still doing that eye twitching thing aren’t you?” The observation and question struck me as it immediately forced to realized how anxious I was in that moment, which inevitably leads me to deal with all of my issues of trust with God and other people. What was so beautiful was that the next thing Houston did was to grab my hand and pray for me. A sense of calmness immediately came over me.
Only after sitting at a coffee shop with a friend did I realize the irony of that exchange. I am a pastor with a Masters degree buying lunch for a friend that lives on the streets. I am supposed to be the one with all of the answers. I am supposed to be the one that is calm and at peace in the world because of my relationship with Jesus. Technically I am supposed to hold all of the power in the relationship. But, in that moment Houston, the one on the margins of society took the place of honor and gave to me and it was beautiful. In the words of my brilliant wife Adrienne, “Prayers don’t have status.”