When we think of authority, do we visualize a figure telling us what and what not to do, or someone who has an ability to make us do what we don’t want to do? In this visualization, are we in some way rebelling against anything which presumes to make us go against our will or do we accept the direction and follow like sheep to the slaughter? I’m sure all of us at some point don’t like being told what we can and can’t do, but at the end of the day it exists and we must all deal with authority. I think of authority on many different levels from the authority of time as it pertains to life, God’s authority over all, the authority of the government, or even the authority used within our work places. Do we ever think of the authority we exercise within our own families or our employees if we have them? I would anticipate many people thinking of the negative connotations which exist with authority and usually have a grim picture to paint.
This may indeed be why we have such a problem with authority as it relates to our culture and everything we’ve been taught from the earliest age. We may choose to become worried or get angry when being pulled over by a police officer, but not because of a possible citation which may then occur (our frustration is equal part ours and the discretion of the officer). I think it has more to do with being caught and the presence the police officer represents, an authority by the faceless, nameless justice to chastise our behavior. We just don’t like being told what to do, and any man I can think of would just roll over and say, “hey, pull me over…. I think a ticket by a guy twenty years younger and better shape than me sounds ideal”. So, there is a natural animosity which already exists between both of us, the police officer and Joe Public. Yet when we step back from the whole situation, we can see the officer is just trying to do their job (in most cases), and because they are doing their job and we’re being pulled over, there must be a reason. I wondered, why this happens? Was I traumatized by my parents growing up, to fear authority, or am I just so worried about doing something wrong, just the mere mention of being reprimanded makes my stomach turn in knots. Well, for me, I wasn’t traumatized by my parents, and I’m not fearful of being reprimanded (don’t like it, but not fearful of it). Nope, the real issue is, I just don’t like having anyone tell me what to do, and in my arrogance and sudden awareness of shamefulness, I don’t want this exposed to the world. I don’t want people to see any crack in the façade, appearance has become dominant in my decision making, and in my subsequent choice patterns.
So, why do I, or even why do you, feel this way when faced with an authority presence? We want to feel as though we have some control over our lives, and in doing so, we conclude we are the masters of our own destiny. When someone disrupts this course we’ve charted for ourselves, such as an authority figure (perhaps the principle of your school when you were younger and their reprimand was met at home by the rod), we instinctively place blame on anything or anyone but where most of the blame lies, with us. When we refuse to take blame or at least put the blame in other places, then where it should be, we seem to represent an instinctive behavior which creates an alternative subjective truth (lawyers are experts at this), and shirk what is the natural objective truth. To achieve a subjective truth, just like an illusionist, we usually misdirect and cause the figurative or literal eye to move from our blame and fixate on another. In Genesis 3, we see both Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, and when God is walking through the Garden of Eden, they at first hide themselves, and then when asked to show himself and explain how he knew of his nakedness, Adam blames Eve. Adam was the first Christ figure in the Bible, it was his place to take the sin of Eve and burden himself with it, for allowing her to take of the fruit. Instead, he did what we as humans do, blamed someone else, to mitigate the perceived chastisement he anticipated as a response from God. Thusly, God punished Adam and Eve, and regarding the punishment, we see an explanation for everything which we would foresee as pain in our own time today.
Usually when I talk with people about this topic, there is mixed points of view. Some people recognize the wrongness of Adam and Eve doing what they were told not to do, but other people take a stance of incredulity over the severe nature of the punishment. To the extent, where literal pain is exercised as a matter of life and death. This make the childbirth of Jesus more profound, because it is the stance of the Catholic Church, due to her immaculate nature, she never experiences pain in the birth of Jesus. This is a punishment for only those who were born with “original sin”, the sin which is placed on the actions of Adam and Eve. When I read Genesis 3, I think of my children though, I’ve busted my kids in so many lies and poor behavior over the years, I grown intolerant to anything which isn’t the truth. Their first behavior is to act like Adam, and immediately blame their siblings, or their perception of an impossible situation. There is usually crying involved, at least until they realize the crying isn’t working, and then sad faces with a stark look of disbelief. This is then peppered with their own form of anger, based on the little fact they have nowhere else to go, and they must finally admit their fault. This is when we arrive at the “I’m sorry, Dad” depot, located at “I won’t ever do that again” stop in “Sorrysville”, which is somewhere just south of “It’s still not really my fault, but acting like it is, is still the best play”. To say the least, it frustrates me, and I can only imagine where we must be at with our general sin as it translates to our Heavenly Father. I can’t even envision how frustrated, God, must be at my total unwillingness to change.
So now, we’ve come to brass tacks. In my arrogance possibly, or hubris, I’ve placed more emphasis on what I want and need rather than what’s at the heart of God. So, when I’ve thought of authority in the past, I conclude, as it relates to my life and God’s place in my life, I’ve been rebellious. I’ve thought more of not wanting to be told what to do, or at any rate being a failure through my sin, then anything else I could think of. This is where most men, your average husband or father, just might find themselves. We have all this responsibility which rests on our shoulders, assuming you want to provide for your family and be the best father possible, this can be stressful. Then we combine, a thought of God looking down upon us, in disgust or in most cases just disappointment. We give ourselves a perception of a perpetually displeased creator who is more concerned with the rules than with us. This isn’t true in any way, a God who lovingly crafted each one of us, isn’t telling us what not to do, but instead is willing us to fall in love with him.
Ok, we have a new point of view. We are on this earth as a gift from God, and in this gift, we are given a multitude of graces which are poured upon us as a matter of his unwavering love. It is less a matter of “don’t do that because I told you not to!”, and more of a “please do this, because I love you and want you to be with me!”. Being close to God, and with God is a matter of purification of one’s self. We do this in our daily work, our prayers, our actions towards one another. When we fail to embrace God’s will and purity, of our own accord, we push ourselves away from God, and subsequently love. As a father, I need love to show my kids, and spouse, but if I’m unwilling to accept it, then how can I really give my whole self to what I’m doing. Pouring one’s self our is a matter of leaving nothing behind. When we have nothing left, this is when we can appreciate the love of God and those of the people around us. Receiving the love of the people around us, charity, and giving it in return is what we are all about. I know in the past when I have truly left myself open, and empty, I was filled with emotion, but more importantly I was overcome with love for my fellow man. Men, we must recognize this and be willing to put ourselves out there first, and bear our hearts and souls for all we meet. We must be willing to be strong, to fight against those forces which would corrupt us, and cause us to fall short of the Glory of God. Just remember, like any war a nation would fight, it’s not about the single battle, it’s about the attrition and strategy which each side is willing to fight. There is no good defense against prayer, we have a direct line to our Heavenly Father, and the intercessory prayers to the Saints, to pray on our behalf is one the most powerful acts we can accomplish.
Prayer and repentance are in our arsenal of weapons to fight evil, stronger than any blade and more blinding than any light, we can use these as tools to bring us closer to God, by pushing away those sins which want to rip and tear us from him. When we can meditate and pray on our sins, and on our place as it relates to God and time and space, we can accept authority. God’s authority is like no other, it isn’t meant to tell us where we can go and not go, what to say and what not to say. It’s there to show us the truth, a beauty which is so magnificent as to astound anyone without words to describe, the greater glory. God’s authority isn’t meant to be mixed with the authority of the government, and furthermore to be diluted in talks of politics, and as men we should be willing to keep some things sacred. As fathers, we are to mirror God’s relationship with us, as our heavenly father, and translate this as much as possible to our own children so they will continue the same parenthood over their children down through the generations. Failing to do this, failing to be strong when it is most necessary, is a failure of gigantic proportions. We don’t fail because we do something wrong, or behave poorly, we’re human, this is what we do. As men, and I think my wife would agree with this statement, I act like an idiot from time-to-time, but it isn’t because I don’t wish to be closer to her or my kids, or God, but instead it has more to do with my selfishness getting in the way of love.
We are going to face trials of authority in the future, perhaps some of you are facing them as we speak. Stand up for what is righteous, what is of God’s will. Don’t be persuaded to accept the easy path because you’re just not wanting to deal with whatever stress is coming your way. “God never gives you more than you can handle” a phrase my wife says all the time, when I am at a perceived breaking point. She is a true reflection of the light of Christ, and although, we must walk our own paths in this life, it is so much the better when we can have a spouse to walk with us and help us go through times of trouble and angst.
As authority is concerned overall, I listened to a priest friend say about the Catholic Church, “no government has ever lasted as long as the Catholic Church, and there is a definite reason for this”, Bishop Robert Barron stated in his book Catholicism, in a reference to Cardinal Francis George’s “pensive expression”, “When the cardinal returned home, reporters asked him what he was thinking about at the moment. Here is what he said: ‘I was gazing over toward the Circus Maximus, toward the Palatine Hill where the Roman Emperors once resided and reigned and looked down upon the persecution of Christians and thought, ‘Where are their successors? Where is the successor of Ceasar Augustus? Where is the successor of Marcus Aurelius? And Finally, who cares? But if you want to see the successor of Peter, he is right next to me, smiling and waving at the crowds.’” We owe it to ourselves and to our families and the people who we come into contact daily, to recognize truth and focus this truth in our daily lives. There is only one true God, the fact the Catholic Church stands, is a testament to this truth. The fact Christianity is alive and seeking this truth daily is a testament to the authority of God. My advice to any man who is struggling or seeking this truth is to say, our government is for the betterment of the people we live with daily, it helps to oversee infrastructure and the general needs of the people, but it is never a replacement for God in any matter. We can see the secular push to try and make it such, we can see a left leaning push to make government a more central focus in our lives, but it will never fill up the void we seek in life, love. God is love, or rather love is God, we should, we must seek his authority. Though not as a matter of telling us what or what not to do, but like a father who loves his child and weeps when they hurt, he weeps for us when we stay from his love, because he can see where we are headed even if we can’t. There is a beautiful song we sing during the forty-days of Lent, Hosea, and the first line of the song reads, “come back to me, with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart”. I admit, this line floors me, it speaks right to the core of who I am. I find myself running from fear of disappointment, and shame in the sight of God. He loves us too much to let us go, so stop running if you are, and if you’ve reached a point in your life where you have stopped running, then lift someone else up, this just might be your calling.
I pray some of my perspectives and pseudo advice will help light the way for those who just might be struggling with their own fears of disappointment and failure. God loves you always, he created you, he formed you, he knows everything about you down to the smallest detail. He knows you better than you know yourself, “And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid” Luke 12:6-7. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!