Power Under Control

Published 6:45 pm Friday, March 11, 2022

The day is beautiful and you decide it’s too pretty not to cook out. Your grill is all ready to go. Now if you’re a charcoal snob like my wife, then what I’m about to say might not translate quite as readily. But when you bought your gas grill, they appealed to you with a sign that told you how many BTUs of heat your grill would produce. It’s some ridiculous number.

Especially we guys, and maybe some of you ladies, are drawn to test out that much power. There’s a hard reality in the culinary world, though. You’ve learned, perhaps the hard way, that you can’t cook that nice piece of meat full out. You’ve learned that although there may be 5 little marks on the gas control knob, your grill probably cooks best somewhere between 2 and 3.

Once you’ve warmed it up, no higher than 3. Low and slow produces better results. Burning it isn’t what you’re after. Fact is, even with charcoal you can use the indirect heat method and you should. What we’re talking about is cooking at less power or temperature than you could so that things turn out better. That’s power under control.

I’ve probably mentioned this to you before. The Los Angeles Dodgers once upon a time had a pitcher who had all the talent in the world. Legend has it that he could throw a ball 100 mph. For more than three full seasons, though, this pitcher for whom it seemed that God had reached out and touched his arm could only seem to produce mixed results.

Then one day a backup catcher named Norm Sherry, who is barely known, made a suggestion that saved the pitcher’s career. It made the pitcher world famous, and led to him being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Know what the catcher’s suggestion was? Don’t throw so hard. Put your power under better control.

A thoroughbred like the ones that run the Kentucky Derby are fascinating to watch. The jockey’s job is more than just holding the reins and going along for the ride. Because these tremendous animals have so much speed, so much power.

All that power has to be kept under control. You hold your horse back until hopefully the right moment. You let your horse loose at hopefully the right moment, because all that power can’t be used full bore the whole race.

In essence, the jockey’s strategy and job is to save the horse from him or herself. No less than Thucydides said, “Of all manifestations of power, the restraint of power impresses men most.”

As we make the journey of Lent, through Good Friday and eventually on to the empty tomb, we will encounter a God who is like us in some ways. This God has known suffering up close, much as we have. Jesus was with us in all the ways the human experience could offer. He did so with pain, uncertainty, disappointment, loss and all the ways that we can and do suffer.

This story we have in Luke 4: 1-13 is in some ways an exercise in Jesus repeatedly saying on a number of subjects, “I could, but I choose not to. It will be better for the world if I don’t.”

Here is Jesus in the wilderness, already understanding just how badly he needs to keep his power under control. Our story demonstrates that with three examples. Forty days of Lent are ours. Forty days of prayer and fasting were his. Forty days of preparation by God for what was ahead. He submitted himself to every bit of it. Now, he was famished. In some ways, the human side of Jesus may have been vulnerable even.

In the face of temptations, he basically said, “As good as that would be, I have come for something deeper and broader. I have come to feed people with something that will last far better than that.” He kept his power under control.

The question I guess that is most relevant to you and to me is whether we can do similarly? We Christians have power because we are humans living in the Western world. So maybe we lead with compassion, inclusion and love, with empathy and generosity within a world that couldn’t use any more needless shows of power than it already has. But sure could use all the Jesus it can get.