I have a very strong will. Sometimes, that turns into me being mule-stubborn. I set my eyes, dig in my heels and become intractable. Not a good thing to be as a leader, or as a person. I am not proud of myself for having this trait, and frankly it has gotten me into a good deal of trouble in my life, both personally and vocationally. The harder a situation gets, and the more I don't think it is "going my way," then the stronger the impulse to dig in and fight/resist/control. Again, not healthy. There are better ways to live.
Of course, with every great weakness comes a possibility of that weakness being expressed as strength. When I am in a holy space, when my "eyes are set on God," then that strong will becomes virtue. With that will I find that I can absorb an incredible amount of pain and stress while being able to focus on keeping my head up and my eyes fixed on a goal. This isn't tenacity, but instead an ability to put aside the feelings created by events raging around me in order to focus....to preach at a funeral, to sit vigil at bedside with someone who is sick or dying, to keep centered on a goal during a period of conflict when everything around me wants to push and pull me off center and away from keeping a God-centered still-point at my core.
As I muse on this trait, though, I am deeply aware that "this is ME" having these experiences. This is ME generating these responses in the people around me. This is ME, and my will....not necessarily God's will...being done.
This is the birth of sin in me. I see it. I know it....and yet I keep coming back to it.
Of course, it is part and parcel of human existence to want things to come, or go, our way. We have people to take care of in our lives, and getting our needs-and theirs-met is how we survive and thrive in this mortal coil.
But the life of Christ, I am learning, works on a slightly different model. I hesitate to guess just how many times I have been presented with this life lesson in my tenure on this planet...but perhaps I am now beginning to learn something about what Jesus is modeling for us when he is in extremis.
Jesus labors in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is moments before his arrest. It is moments before his freedom ends and he is bound by law...by law of Empire, mind you. He exerts himself in prayer, according to the evangelists, to the extent that his sweat is like drops of blood on his forehead. "Let this cup pass from me..." is Jesus' very personal and very willful prayer to God. How many times have we offered the same? How many times have we sought to be released from one set of God's expectations of us for another?
How many hairs do you have on your head?
So Jesus prays the prayer of humanity...and then he adds something....
".....but....not my will, but your will be done."
How does that affect me today?
Said one way, "I will...." is defiant. Said another.....it is submission to God's desire for us. I accept that God has extended an invitation to me to act, respond, serve, live in a certain way....and in assent, I say, "I will."
Same words....radically different inflection....with radically different results.