My Own Personal Cuba

By Donna Lee Schillinger

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but a woman is tested by the praise she receives.
Proverbs 27:21

Does it ever cease to amaze you how movie stars seem to crash and burn when they make it big? I don’t buy the gossip rags, but I confess to reading the headlines while I’m in line at the grocery store. It seems with mathematical certainty that the happy couple on the cover today will be on the cover again announcing their split in a matter of a few years (or less!). It isn’t fame that ruins a person, however, if our proverb is to be trusted. Rather, fame is a tool for testing a person and revealing their true character.

A little praise and recognition doesn’t feel like going through the fire to me. I may feel a little heat under the collar and turn a shade of pink, but I have never thought of praise as a furnace, as our proverb suggests. Yet with praise, recognition, awards and, in general, rising to the top in work, hobby, sport or community endeavors comes control.

Whereas men are forever and always trying to be king of the mountain, women are control freaks. It’s the same disease, just different manifestations. We all want control. It’s one of those natural desires that can become a positive force under God’s guidance or a negative, highly destructive force when employed for evil.

Anybody can have control – just get a pet and you are lord and master over a helpless kitty cat or puppy dog. It’s just doesn’t satisfy like ruling people though. That kind of control isn’t as easy as adopting a pet; and yet it’s not so hard to come by either. Most people get some measure of control in life through their job or parenting. Take for instance, the night watchperson, nursing home attendant or hotel maid. Each of these rather humble stations includes its measure of control over people. What if you want an extra shampoo or ice bucket? You’ve got to ask the maid, and if she randomly decides not to give it to you, what are you going to do? After all, it’s her supply cart!

Some people have authority dropped in their laps, never having put out much effort to earn it. Others rise to the top through a combination of natural talent, hard work and perseverance. However it comes about, our bailiwick will become our furnace. People of weak character will go out in flames – some are slow burning, some go in a flash. How long the testing lasts is a divine matter. One wonders, for example, why it takes some horrid world leaders so long to finally get their comeuppance. Rest assured, God is working His plan and purpose.

Hitlers and Husseins are exceptional, but you’d be surprised – I always am – at how many people, when given even the most miniscule amount of control, take it on as if they were Castro in their own personal Cuba. Even more frightening is that we see this often in churches. Thank God I go to a small church without a lot of control issues. However, I know of another little church down the road, with fewer than 20 in the congregation, which is plagued by constant power struggles. Almost every adult member of the congregation has some title or office which they take much too seriously. It’s a congregation of a dozen personal agendas. I wonder what God thinks about all that. I don’t have to wonder what God has to do with it though. It’s God’s house, yes; even that little hornet’s nest of a congregation gathers in God’s name, and it seems that God is using it as a furnace for those individuals. I pray they come through the fire purified.

How are you going to handle power and authority? It’s not long before it’s coming your way if you don’t already have a portion. Are you going to be the person people talk about in whispers – a dictator in your own rite? “Everything has to be her way.” “She acts like the world revolves around her.” “The only opinion she cares about is her own.” Or are you going to be the kind of leader that rolls up her sleeves, gets down and dirty with the rest to get the job done and ignores the fact she even has any authority until a real need to exercise it comes along?

Will power unveil in you an ugly ego or will it strengthen your commitment to others?

Hold this thought: I won’t let praise and power go to my head.

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