I’d roll my eyes at group assignments in school, for one or two of us would end up doing the lion’s share of the work and at least one schmuck would do nothing. The only sport I’ve ever been gung-ho about is running, where winning or losing depends on Chad and Chad alone. I chose a career path while I was in my early 20’s, scratched the right backs, quoted the right scholars, and soon landed the teaching position I coveted. I like to fly solo; and I like to plan my own flights. I am a man who likes to be in control. I was even in control of God for a time. Well, I never would have admitted it, much less phrased it that blasphemously, but if my assumptions had been voiced, they’d have affirmed that I believed this lie. God was doing my bidding, catering to my whims. Why? Because I believed all the right things, of course, taught all the right theology, even sang all the right church songs. And as long as I did, God would watch as I plotted my own course in life and would bless me along the way. If I stayed in control, my life would be just the way I wanted it to be.
Are you nodding your head? Have you been the wife who thought that if she provided her husband with a hot supper and steamy sex whenever he hungered for either, that he’d never stray, and by and by you’d be smiling for the camera behind your 50th wedding anniversary cake? And then he cheated. And your world crumbled. Have you been the parent who thought that if you sent your child to Sunday School, taught them right from wrong, and bankrolled their university training, that they’d keep on the straight and narrow and make something of themselves? And now as you tuck your four-year-old grandson into bed and he cries for Mommy, you fight back tears and whisper a prayer that your daughter’s second trip through rehab will stick.
We build our castles of sand during low tide, in seeming control of our perfect little kingdoms, then the waves come lapping closer and still closer. We stand there helpless, watching as all we labored over is swallowed by the ocean’s mouth. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
If I were in control, I’d arrange my life so that heartaches were avoided, sins uncommitted, disasters averted. If you were in control, you’d plan your life so that children lived, marriages survived, careers prospered, cancers were cured. If we were in control, we’d never slide into the dark, dank pit of depression. We’d never fall asleep praying that we wouldn’t wake up. We would plan our lives, smile as all our desires were fulfilled, and know that God above was giving us a standing ovation for doing such a fine job of mapping out an earthly journey of unalloyed happiness.
But we are not in control. Indeed, the few things we stubbornly insist we still control are mere phantasms. Why, there are days we can’t even control our own bowels, so, tell me, why do we think we can control anything else? Indeed, the control we crave is nothing more than a manifestation of our desire to be the gods of our lives, as well as the lives of others.
The believer does not live by control, but by faith. This faith does not demand a laissez-faire approach to living, as if we abandon all planning. Rather, to live by faith is to affirm that, whatever happens in this life, someone bigger than this life, someone better than this life, will hold us and help us through it. To live by faith is not to affirm that, like that misleading “Footprints in the Sand” poem, the Lord carries us through the hard times, but to affirm that the Lord carries us through all times. To live by faith is to know that, when we are going through a divorce, Christ will never divorce us; when our children go astray, they remain children of the heavenly Father; when our lives fall apart, that we live in Jesus, whose resurrection life sustains our life.
We do not exchange, “I am in control of my life,” for “God is in control of my life,” for control is a word of coercion and law. Instead, we say, “I am baptized into Christ.” My life is not my own, but His. His Father is my Father, His God is my God. I am more precious to God than even His own life, for He gave His life that He might have me. I am baptized into the one who causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. I am baptized into the one from whom neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me, for I am a beloved member of His body, flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone.
I am not in control; I am in Christ. And that is all that ultimately matters.
+++If you enjoy my writings, please take a moment to check out the book I just published: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. Here you will find page after page of reflections upon the Christian life, its struggles and pains, its joys and hopes. Most importantly, you will find Jesus at the center of this book, even as He is at the center of the Christian’s life. Click on this link to view the book. Thank you for your interest!