Surrendering to Power, Presence of God

Surrendering to Power, Presence of God

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton


One of my favorite “go to” illustrations is a piece from John R. Aurelio’s book, “Fables for God’s People.”  It is called, “The Thimble.”

One day, after a hard day’s work, a thimble got to thinking about itself.  “I’m really rather remarkable,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I do believe that I’m the greatest thing there is!”

 “Not so!” said the bucket. “You are no more than a thimble. I am many times your size. I am the greatest thing there is!”

 “Not quite!” said the barrel. “You are no more than a bucket. I am many times your size. I am the greatest thing there is!”

“Hardly!” said the lake. “You are no more than a barrel. There is nothing greater than me!”

 “Ha!” said the ocean. “You are merely a lake. There is nothing greater than me!”

 “I am greater than you!” said the earth. “I am the greatest thing there is.”

 “Nonsense!” said the sun. “There is nothing greater than me. I am the greatest!”

 “Hogwash!” said the solar system. “You are no more than a Ping-Pong ball in my playground.  There is nothing greater than me!”

“I beg your pardon!” said the constellation. “Look at me. Can anything be greater than me?”

 “Enough!” rumbled the universe from one end of its infinite vastness to the other until everything, everywhere shook at its voice.  “Need anything more be said?”

 “Yes!” said God to the universe. “You are no more than my thimble!” 


There is SO much going on around us.  The world is in a state of conflict.  The country is in a state of chaos.  The church is in a state of uncertainty.  And, in every venue, there is a consistent question: “What are we going to do?”

What ARE we going to do? What is the best strategy to pursue? Who can consult us or train us or inspire us to such a degree that the light bulb will come on and, as a result, an amazing strategy will emerge, a new angle will be pursued or, perhaps, the long sought-after answer will be found. 

And, in the meantime, while we wait for this amazing breakthrough, fears and angers express themselves with emotions that reveal our deepest longings. Little discretion is used as to when and where and how we express ourselves and, as a result, hurts grow deeper, walls grow higher, and solutions seem farther and farther away.

It is the Achilles heel of the human spirit. We believe that it has been placed on our shoulders and ours alone to find an answer, reveal a way forward, or discern a solution to our deepest hurts, longings and fears. It is the dilemma of leadership. We have been groomed to believe that effective leaders are the ones who always have a solution that will break through the barriers and reveal the answers we have hoped to find all along.

It is the dilemma described in “The Thimble.”  This fable is about self-sufficiency combined with an over exaggerated view of self. We have groomed ourselves to think that we have the answers: our opinions are right just because we think them, our feelings are justified just because we feel them, and our answers are only found in the small confines of the world as we experience it. And before we know it, like a thimble, a barrel, a lake, an ocean, a sun, a solar system, a constellation, and a universe, we fall victim to the belief that, “I am the greatest thing there is. There is nothing greater than me!”

We hear those very words from world leaders, to be sure. But lest we judge, we also hear those words from anyone who is convinced that their position on an issue is absolutely right. 

Adam and Eve felt that way once when they disobeyed God in the garden. Noah felt that way when he got drunk after the flood. That same feeling got to Moses. He transitioned from stutterer to self-sufficiency and, as a result, could only look at the Promised Land from a distance. It happened to David when he thought that he was beyond judgement as an adulterer. Peter felt that way when he relied on himself as he attempted to walk on the water. His companions indulged in that elixir when they walked on the road debating who among them was the greatest. Saul was convinced of its truth until he blinded on the Damascus Road. It is, you see, the story of humanity. 

But the biblical record reveals one, clear, ultimate truth. God is God and we are not. Humanity always believes that it has the right answer and is willing to even boast about it. But God is God, greater than we can imagine and the only one who can ultimately guide us through the morass and show us the path to the Promised Land.

In the next few days, the church as we know it will gather to conference about “the way forward.” Proposals have been drafted, positions have been established, petitions have been crafted, and strategies have been determined.

“We have a plan, a way through, an answer to our dilemma. Our way will be the great unifier! Our solution will make the most sense! Surely, our way is the greatest thing that there is!” If we’re not careful we will simply be the next in line of those who thought they knew what was right and failed.

In the midst of these human tendencies, I wanted to write today to ask you to contemplate with me the real answer to the problems we face. I believe the real answer is surrendering ourselves to the power and presence of God. It’s taking the time to breath just long enough to capture the scent of God’s grace and love. It’s opening our eyes to the reality of the greatness of God in our midst. It’s listening for the still, small voice that, when heeded, guides us into solutions we had never dreamed were possible. It’s pausing just long enough to ask God to intervene in our deliberations. And it’s realizing that in the big scheme of life as we know it, we are just a thimble in comparison to this God who is the architect of everything we know, the sustainer of everything we have, and the answer to every problem we will ever face.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow, but to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

You and I are nothing more than a thimble.  We would all do well to remember that simple little fact. And there’s only one thing to say about that: Thanks be to God!


The Journey Continues, . . .

Thomas J. Bickerton

Resident Bishop