Race car drivers control their cars. Pilots are in control of their airplanes. Athletes control their bodies. Control is synonymous with excellence. The better you become at flying a plane, driving a car, or contorting your body as you fly through the air for a lay-up the more “in control” you are. You are a master over something once you can control it. We long to be in control of whatever we are doing because we believe it guarantees success.
That’s why we want to be in control of our lives. When we work hard and gain control over our lives, we believe we can control the results. We can control how things will turn out. We want to control our kids, because we want them to be successful. We control our friends because we want them to enhance our lives. And we want control in our careers because we want to be successful. But when our kids rebel, our friends let us down, or we get passed over for the promotion that we deserved, we come face to face with the reality that we are not in control.
Interruptions and disappointments jar us awake to the fact that we are not in control. This produces anxiety. If we aren’t in control, how can we be sure things will work out! We usually respond by trying to work hard to regain control. We slow down, recalibrate, and do whatever we can to re-establish control over our lives. If things are really crazy, we may stop spending time with people. We may withdraw a little. We may drop commitments we previously made. “Just until things get back under control,” we say.
Unfortunately, control is an illusion. We will never get in control of life. If we think we have, we are wrong. If we pursue control, we do so in vain. Control is elusive and the best response to the chaos of our life is to embrace it. Accept that control is an illusion and welcome the humbling that comes from not being in control.
If we want to follow Jesus, this is a must. You can’t be in control of your life and enjoy intimacy with God. They are mutually exclusive. Intimacy with God comes from reckless obedience to the ways of Jesus. It means we live by faith. It means we make decisions that put us in harms way. It means we take risks, and risks by definition include the possibility of failure. If we demand control, we cannot follow Jesus in faith. Jesus said to Peter:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”” (John 21:18 ESV)
Following Jesus means, like Peter, we go where Jesus wants us to go. We no longer “dress ourself and walk wherever we want.” We live out of control and by faith. Following Jesus means we may have to go “where we do not want to go.” This is not all bad though. The good news is that God is with us. If we are living out of control, then that means that we aren’t in charge. God is. And while our life may be a lot more scary — because it’s a bit reckless — it’s also way more fun.