Control. You may remember me talking about it before. I have always found control to be comforting. But lack of control? I hate it. So what about the idea of voluntarily giving up control to God? It's extremely difficult for me. However, I have made the choice to do it. It is my act of worship to the God I profess faith in. Giving my control to Him has taught me a lot; most importantly it has taught me that I was never in control in the first place. My control is an illusion. The harder I try to hold on to that illusion, the more it unravels.
In my previous post I talked about the the things I could have control over. It was an example of Biblical self control. Allow me to quote myself: “The book of Job is one more reminder for me to seek control in my behavior, in my speech, in what I accept or reject as truth, and in how I act.” The Bible speaks of self control and directs us to have it. 2 peter 5-6 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” This self control, and everything that comes with it, isn't done in my power or in my name. It may not come as a surprise to you that it is done in His power and in His name. The reason for that being Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is because of this that I say my control is an illusion; it was never in my power, I always had to give it over to God before I was able to do anything that had real substance. When I am “in control”, it's not truly my control that I have, but God's will that I am walking in. I can equate it to the chicken and the egg analogy, but in this case we have an answer as to what comes first: God.
Let me take just a moment before moving on and say something. I love that God lets me have self control. As a person who finds comfort in control, this is a blessing to me. This lets me keep the structure I long for. I am a rule follower, it's how He made me. For me 2 Peter 5-6 is a healing balm when I feel out of control. There is a part of me that looks at that scripture and thinks, “God, you know me! You know that I needed that. You didn't make me give everything up, you let me keep things that feel comfortable to me.” But I can assure you that there have been times when I used that self control incorrectly, and the Holy Spirit has been there to correct me. I can get too controlling, I can try to do it on my own, in my own name. I can be a slave to my “to do list”, I can ignore people while focusing on task after task thinking that I am mastering self control, I can be tempted to ignore the prompting of God literally telling Him that I am too busy having self control to follow what feels like an impulsive direction. There is a defined Godly self control: It means that when I am practicing self control I am really following the prompting of God, of The Holy Spirit within me, acknowledging that the true source of self control doesn't come from “self” but comes from my choice to follow Him and His will.
And now back to talking about the type of control that is the hardest for me: the total and complete lack of it. As I said before, control is an illusion. Even self control doesn't really belong to me. It's a choice I make to follow Him. But what about when we aren't even in the passenger seat (or at least that is the way we feel)? How does this Control Freak handle total acceptance of not being able to have control? And going one step further, how do I make a choice each day to lay down the perceived control and acknowledge that God has absolute control? Short answer: It's a struggle and I work at it constantly and imperfectly. Long answer: I look to scripture and ask for a lot of help from God.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
To be brutally honest, my desire to have control is selfish. I may have perfectly good intentions for control; my explanations are downright justifiable, but at the center of the control you will find selfish intent. Let me use the example of how I control my family's dinner to make this point: the meal is picked with our budget in mind, each person's food preferences are taken into account to make sure my time and the ingredients have not gone to waste, and the food hits the table at what is deemed the “right time” based on when I can ensure the least amount of whining from my children and to prevent my husband from snacking and therefore not being hungry for the dinner I so lovingly prepared. See: good intentions, justifiable, but selfish. When I CHOOSE to give up control to God, and instead follow God's will, listening to The Holy Spirit who resides in me, it is one way in which I can deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. Is it easy? No. But I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live by the flesh but by faith. So what does that look like? Honestly that is a tough question to answer. In every season of my life “giving up control” has looked different. The very first time I ever gave up control to Christ was when I accepted Him as my savior. Some people will say that for them that was an easy thing to do. I truly wish I could claim that, but it wasn't the case for me. The struggle of accepting Christ was an important one for me, as it showed me from the start that He was willing to love me through my faults. The second time I remember having to choose to give up my control in a big way was to confess my faith with my mouth. Talk about denying myself. Most of my friends were not believers, almost none of my family was. To put it mildly the word “Christian” was a bad taste in their mouths. To profess with my words that I not only followed God, but accepted Christ, this was not what I would have chosen to do. Profession of faith was God's will for my life. Denial of myself, picking up of the cross. Later there came a time where I had to decide if I would join a church (GASP!). For you it may not even have crossed your mind that it should be an issue. Church is Biblical. God ordained it, Christ said the church would be built upon His rock, Peter. But in my pre-God world church was where people who didn't know any better gathered (please read that sentence again. This is pre-God, when I was the one who didn't know any better.) Had I been in control, I would have stayed far away from any church building. But one more time I made a conscious choice to follow His prompting. It wasn't easy. I honestly needed a lot of counsel (really from the same two people, but I went to them A LOT!) Denial of myself, picking up of the Cross. Further down the road there came a time in which God called me into ministry. Time after time in ministry I have been called to deny myself. Whether I am serving my fellow man, walking along side a brother or sister, or asking a fellow believer to walk alongside me and give me Godly counsel, all things have been done with my eyes on Jesus and not on Kimberly. There have been great temptations to be selfish along the way. I cannot stop the temptations from existing. But because the Holy Spirit resides in me, because I have been crucified with Christ, He is there moment by moment giving me the strength to carry the cross. I do it with His will, in His name. No easy task. But I haven't once found the scripture that promises me the easy road. I have, however, found John 19:30 where Jesus says “It is finished,” as He carries out the will of His father in His father's name.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
Lord, why am I crying now when last week I was so happy? Father God, why did you place me in this church if every time I turn around I am fighting a new battle? Jesus, why did you choose this job for me when I'm the only Christian in the entire department? Abba Father why have you called me to move away from everyone I know to a place I have no connection with and start a new journey? God, why can't I start a family when it's been the dream you have given me since I was little? Have you ever asked questions like these? If you have you are not alone. God makes the plans. I love how the NIV translates Jeremiah 29:11 “plans to prosper you and not harm you.” But as we live our lives there are times we don't feel prosperous. It is during those feelings that I am the most tempted to take back control. I don't mean that as in I am consciously saying to God that I am taking control back and rebelling against Him. What I mean is that it is in those unsettling times when I have the most questions for God that I find myself really leaning on the Holy Spirits guidance moment to moment because I am having to fight the temptation of my flesh to be selfishly controlling. Ecclesiastes has been the most helpful in trying to settle those “why's”. But truth be told sometimes there is no real answer other than “I am God”. So Ecclesiastes really comes down to God giving me comfort in the fact that He is God. God picks my seasons for me. He has been choosing my season for me long before I knew Him, but I began to accept that it was Him when I accepted Christ as my savior. I accepted Christ not knowing exactly what it meant, I couldn't have known. Neither could you. When we took that step forward in faith there was no way to know what it would look like. We agreed to the walk, to the journey. And He agreed we would never walk alone. He keeps His promise every day. He is there when we are laughing and He is there when we are weeping. But Friends, we don't get to pick when that is. I say that as much for you as I say it for me. It is a reality I have to accept every time I am smacked with it. I am comforted by the fact that He is there, that He has surrounded me with Godly counsel and a family in Christ. But mostly I am comforted by the fact that His plans will prosper me and not harm me. In the best of times I praise Him. In the worst of times, Maranatha Lord, I praise you.
In the end, control can no longer be about me. Like everything else in my life I have to look at it through the eyes of God. A hard thing to do. What does God think of control? Well, He has it. He uses it. He is in charge of it in our lives. He asks us to give it over to Him at every turn. Does God worship control? Never. The only thing that should ever be worshiped in this world is God. May He be the only thing I ever worship in my life.