Saturday, September 9, 2017

I'd Really Just Like to Be in Control

I would really like to be in control of my universe.  It doesn't seem too much to ask, really, because my universe is quite small.  My family, my health, my friends, my stuff, my reputation, my job--that's really all I ask for control over.  God can take care of the rest.  How generous of me.

We humans have a tendency to forget we that we are not God.  We would like to be, of course, starting way back in the Garden.  You will be like God was whispered in that first temptation.  Ironic, since that was the temptation that the Tempter himself had succumbed to: I will make myself like the Most High.

And the rest is history.  The battle continues in the hearts of each of us, wrestling with God for control.

As image-bearers of God, we are indeed powerful.  Capable of creating (and destroying) cities, splitting atoms, rocketing to the moon.  Subduing the earth, making the land bow to our wishes, growing new people inside our own bodies, snuffing the life out of others with one bullet or sometimes even just one word.  

In America, where we celebrate, encourage, and nurture that power, we are given an illusion of control.  We buckle our children into their five-point harness car seats; we buy alarm systems for our homes; we build shiny fire trucks; we put sand under the monkey bars.

Yet we are not God.  And despite billions of minds at work and thousands of years of history, we can't control the hurricane.  Despite $1500 a month in medical insurance, we can't control our health.  Despite years of homeschooling or thousands invested in the best schools, we can't control our children.

We keep grasping for control, and God keeps showing us that we'll never get it.

When God's people were wandering the desert for 40 years, he fed them with manna.  Each day, every day, and only enough for one day, he sent them bread from heaven.  They weren't allowed to store it up.  They just had to trust that tomorrow it would come again.

We have no concept of Give us this day our daily bread, because our pantries could easily feed us for a month.  In fact, we may decide we're not even into bread, and we eat quinoa instead.  But God always gets around whatever system of control we construct.  We try to store up our health by eating well, but we still will eventually get sick, and eventually die.  We try to store up our wealth, but eventually the bubble will burst or the hurricane will come or the car will crash.

Even in--especially in--sleep does God assert his control.  You can't store up sleep; even after a good nine hours' rest, you'll still be tired again another fifteen hours later.  Frustratingly, sleep is one of the few things in life you can't accomplish by trying harder.  Sleep is surrender.  Sleep is trust.  It is the direct antithesis of fear and anxiety.  And it's necessary for life itself.  Did you get that?  God programmed the necessity of surrender and trust into our DNA.  We can fight it, but we won't win.

I am anxious when I am not in control.  Yet I am never in control, I only deceive myself into thinking I am.  Which is probably one of the reasons why God continually puts things into my life to remind myself of this fact.  Like the Israelites in the desert, often I don't trust the manna will come the next day, even after years and years of experiencing it.  Even though he's promised it.  And proven himself trustworthy.

Like millions of Christian, English-speaking children, the NIV version of Proverbs 3:5-6 was embedded on my heart at a young age.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Last week, I was working on the list of Bible verses that all primary students at HOPAC will learn this year.  When I added Proverbs 3:5-6, I was surprised to see that the new version of the NIV changed one word. all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I can't read Hebrew, so I don't know why the change was made--especially since just about every other English version uses acknowledge.  But I've found myself reflecting a lot on that word this month:  Submit.  There's something a lot more profound and meaningful about submission versus acknowledgement.  It's what I desire for my life with God.  Because I am not in control.  He is.  And the more I submit to that, the straighter my paths will be.

Submit to him, and gather the manna for just today.  Trust that tomorrow it will come again.

*Many of these reflections, especially about manna, come from my current re-reading of Running Scared:  Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Edward Welch.

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