"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Redeeming a leadership of force

I admire the use of force.

Is "force" the right word? Perhaps not. Perhaps is is "absolute sureness," or, "confidence with authority," or, "unwavering dedication." I'm not quite sure. But I do know that there is some way to describe it, even if I can't find the right word for it.  

It reminds me of the stories so many girls love, where at the point of greatest danger to the girl, the hero flies in, flattens all of the bad guys within a ½ mile radius, and carries the girl to safety. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Unreasonable? Yes, in a way, I suppose it is—just a dream, a fairy tale. But why does it speak to me and to so many other people I know?

I think part of it has to do with a redeemed use of force. The prince use force to kidnap the princess (and take her out of harm’s way) and uses force to fight off the entire marauding army (and saves the kingdom). He uses force when he has been entrusted by the High King as a leader to take care of something—someplace—someone—and there is an evil threatening it that perhaps they do not see or they cannot take care of—or perhaps there is a good so necessary for that person or place that it must come about—and he does anything and everything he has to to destroy the evil or bring about the good—including using force. It is force redeemed.

Redeemed force is not always right, for humans err. But we never really faulted the prince when he made a mistake in using redeemed force, did we? He failed—he hurt the princess—sometimes he even lost the kingdom. But we understood; we did not fault him. What we would have faulted him for, however, is never trying. Failure in using redeemed force, we saw, was not in making a mistake—it was never using it at all.

It relates to something that comes up with some regularity among college girls—the infamous question, “What are you looking for in a husband?” Of course, there are all of the standard lovely Christian answers of how he should be godly and reliable and prayerful and read his Bible and like little children and be nice to puppies. The answers are all very nice and acceptable, they really are. And then the conversation turns to me. I sit, and I wonder what they’re going to think. This is not going to sound very normal. Oh, dear.

But, then, I say it.

Among other things, I want—I need—him to be able to tell me no—and to use redeemed force with me. In other words, he needs to be able to completely keep me from doing something that I am set on doing. That is the only way I will feel safe—if I can know for certain that I cannot outsmart and outmaneuver and overcome him to get what I want, no matter what I do—that he will have enough courage, enough tenacity, and enough determination to go completely contrary to my wishes and to keep my best interests in mind even when I do not see them—for he has enough love to see them for me. If he will not use force with me, would he use force with anyone? Would he ever protect me? Could I ever feel safe? If I could not be sure that he would use force for my own good, I don’t know that I could marry him.

Is that giving up my freedom? Is that being less of an individual? No. It is being safe. It is the only way I could ever feel safe when under the leadership of another, because it is where I can entrust myself to another and truly rest there in peace. It is what Jesus does. I feel safe in Him because I know He can do anything and keep me from doing anything and stop anything and start anything and make me do anything if He truly desired it. This takes out all worry, all fear, and lets me submit quietly and peacefully in His arms, because finally, wonderfully, the burden is not on me; I am not alone. Such power is coupled with utter holiness, perfection, and righteousness, and gives me complete confidence.

And that is what I look for in a leader—a person, man or woman, pursuing righteousness, their heart in the right place, yet willing to put their entire heart, soul, mind, and body into protecting and guiding those who have submitted to their leadership. This is the leader who will fight off the bad guys and who will enter the burning building and who will take the hits for those submitted to him. Redeemed force is truly a sacrifice. But then, so is leadership.

Without that sort of redeemed force, life becomes gray. What is there to fight for? Are we just to live in nothingness, sliding along and never truly living? Where is the dying for king and country, the sacrificing of your life for another, the rescuing of the princess, the fighting of the war? Where is the heroism and the glory and the majesty and the riding into the sunset? If you believe in nothing strongly enough to do everything to see it come about, what do you believe in that means anything at all? Suddenly the world becomes flat and dull and no one stands up for the widow and no one lifts up the orphan and no one fights the man beating his wife and no one stops the murderer on the street and no one protects the girl being bullied and no one keeps their friend from committing suicide and no one lives—no one lives at all.