January 5, 2009

A Matter of Control

How much of your life does GOD control and how much of your life do YOU control?

That’s the question posted over at Heart Reflections for the first installment of her weekly blog carnival, What’s On Your Mind in ’09. Here are my thoughts on the topic:

In control. Controlling. Control freak.

For many of us, control is something we’re reluctant to relinquish. We want to be in control—of everything. Our emotions, our finances, our schedules, our bodies, our personal style, our children, even our spouses. We want things the way we want them and we do what it takes to make things happen as planned. We often acknowledge our control “issues” but dismiss them with a “Well, that’s just the way I am” attitude.

However, we’re not quite as forgiving when we’re on the receiving end of such behavior. “She’s such a control freak!” is NOT a compliment.

According to Wikipedia, a control freak is a derogatory term for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. Professor of clinical psychology Les Parrott wrote, “Control freaks are people who care more than you do about something and won’t stop at being pushy to get their way.”

A few weeks ago Dan and I invited over a few neighbors for a pre-Christmas gathering. Before they arrived I busily made last minute preparations to get everything “just so.” Dan, the good husband that he is, offered a helping hand. But everything he did clashed with the carefully concocted plans in my head. “No! Not that way,” I squawked repeatedly. The last straw came when he lined the bread basket with a flowery, pastel napkin. A spring napkin for a Christmas party! Are you kidding me?! Upon my freaking out, he countered with equal enthusiasm, “OK…which EXACT napkin would you like me to use and how PRECISELY would you like me to place it into the basket?”

Such a fuss over a napkin. I chuckle about it now, but my desire to control is systemic. If we're honest, I’m sure each of us probably has us plenty of examples where the stakes were higher than a napkin and we held on even tighter.

Yet, where does God fit in all our planning and preparing? Are His plans an afterthought we retrofit to our carefully controlled lives? Is there even room for them at all? What happens when God's plans directly clash with our own? Because, if we’re not “in control” where does that leave us…out of control?

I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, but God’s not going to do everything for me. I’ve got to take the bull by the horns.”

Do you?

Contrary to popular wisdom, the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” isn’t biblical. It’s pretty clear Jesus’ message wasn’t self-sufficiency. Again and again He entreats, “Follow me.” And in doing so, the follower must give up something: money, occupation, habits, plans—and most of all, control. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

So how do we balance obedience and submission with our God-given abilities, future plans and natural inclination to “just do it?”

There’s a scene in the movie Facing the Giants that sums it up:

The main character, Coach Taylor, is at the end of his rope. Everything in his life is falling apart. No matter what he how he tries to control his situation, bad news awaits at every turn. He’s praying but doesn’t see God at work in his life.

In the movie’s pivotal scene, Coach Taylor’s wise spiritual mentor tells him, “You have an open door here and until the Lord moves you, you are to bloom right where you’re planted.”

To illustrate he shared a story of two farmers who desperately needed rain. Both prayed for rain, but only one of them prepared his field to receive it. The mentor asked, “Which one trusted God to send the rain? ...Which one are you? ...God will send the rain when he’s ready. You need to prepare your field.”

As a follower of Christ, you and I are just that—a follower. God’s planted each of us in a specific place, with specific gifts and specific circumstances. Our job is not to control the outcome, or even co-pilot, the venture. It’s to prepare our fields. God will send the rain.

Do you trust Him?


Anonymous said...

I love the control freak analagy! I too looked that up! =D

You hit me hard when you asked if I trust him. Yes and no, right? I love the phrase, I believe, help me in my unbelief.

Thanks Kelli!

Cheryl Barker said...

Great last paragraph and question, Kelli. So much truth and wisdom...

Anonymous said...

Great post. You gave me alot to think about!

Dan said...

Hi, Napkin Boy here...

Good thought provocation as always, Kel. I don't think the problem is our control freakishness (is that even a word?!), it's more that we freak out over the wrong things. We'll go ten rounds over stuff like the exact selection and placement of party accoutrements...but fail to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."

Silly humans. We'll get this all straight someday. Maybe.


Irritable Mother said...

Yes. I DO trust Him!
Thanks for sharing these throughts.

Chatty Kelly said...

As a recovering control freak who, yes, sometimes falls, I so appreciate this post.

I really enjoyed it. Thanks. (And I was so there with you on the napkin thing...could hear myself speaking to my own husband!)

Runner Mom said...

Oh, Kelli--the last part of your post is what God had me focus on! Thanks so much! Love you bunches!

Jerralea said...

Great post! I really enjoyed reading it.

I had to laugh at your napkin story. I can so see myself doing the same thing!

Anonymous said...

I read this last night and loved it. I just read it again and still love it.

I can say that finally at 40, I trust Him more then anything else!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I'm a definite controller, but my I want to be a heart-tiller (is that a word?). I want to prepare the soil of my mind and heart to receive the truth and direction of Jesus Christ--his leading and his light in my life. How many times I've gone the way of my want rather than wait on the way of God's best for my life. The result?

The wrong napkin in the bread basket. How I pray this day for the wisdom to know the difference.


comenorth2 said...

Dear Elaine

Just do it!