I Am Not In Control

In case you don’t know, I’m 23 years old.  The reason this is important is that for the past 22 years, my life has been pretty secure.  For the first 18 years, I did what a majority of kids did.  I went to school.  I did homework.  I saw my family.  Same old, same old.

I knew I was going to Montevallo six months before I graduated.  I never had to worry about a stressful decision.  Montevallo gave me more money than Alabama, I wanted a small school, so I went to UM.  Not much stress there.

For the last four and a half years, I was back and forth between Montevallo and Vestavia, with summer trips to Virginia and the Philippines in between.  I knew where and who I was–a Mass Comm student, member of the BCM, friend, family member, etc.  I had class, I had BCM events, I knew what I was doing the next semester five months before it got there, and everything seemed to just coast along.

It was easier to follow God in this structured life.  It was easy to find ways to glorify Him in my work, relationships, ministry opportunities, etc.  I had a plan.  I was going to be at UM for 4.5 years, get a degree, get a job, and serve a church.  I was going to stay in town, work at a local paper, go to seminary, and not much would change, other than location and job.

And now, about four months after graduation, I can confidently say that nothing has gone according to plan.  I thought I’d start seminary and finish in four years.  Now, I don’t know if I’ll finish it in seven.  It may take me ten.  I thought for sure I’d find a job somewhere in the state.  Nope.  I thought for sure that this great, logical, rational plan I had made up for myself was going to work.

The old joke is that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him what your plans are.  While I don’t hear God laughing, I do hear Him speaking those dreaded words that I never like to hear: “You are NOT in control.  No matter how much you think you are, you are not God, and you never will be.”

If you asked me if I thought I was God, if I thought I was in control, I’d probably laugh in your face.  Because, on the surface, that sounds preposterous.  But deep down, and in the everyday, when I start to see how real that lack of control really is….I know I’ve made it an idol.  I’m scared, not because I fear moving away or taking longer in seminary than I thought I would.  I’m scared because I’m not in control.  I am a control freak.

And I am a sinner.  I try to control my own salvation.  I want to be the one who makes God happy.  I want to be the one who changes my own life.  I want to do it, I want to prove myself, I, I, I, I, and I.

But the gospel gets rid of me and inserts Jesus in my place.  I do not earn my forgiveness, Jesus does.  I don’t make God happy, Jesus does.  I don’t prove myself before God and earn His approval, Jesus does.  I am not righteous, Jesus is.  I can’t even change my own heart.  Jesus does.

I am nothing.  I have nothing.  I’m convinced the reason I struggle to rest in Christ and trust that I’m saved is because I am a control freak.  It’s seemingly impossible for me to trust someone else to do something I need done.  And so I freak out, until I feel like I have control over the situation.  But I never have control.  It’s a facade.  My salvation is found in Christ’s finished work, not my prayers.  If I’m trusting my own ability to control my salvation, I’m not trusting Jesus.  This isn’t just stupid, it’s deadly.

For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to understand just how small I am, and that I literally have no control.  I can’t control God, I can’t control others, and I can’t control my own life.  I have no idea what God is about to do.  For goodness’ sake, I just got two emails apologizing that jobs in Minnesota and North Dakota have already been filled.  NORTH DAKOTA! (No disrespect to ND).  I’d be less than an hour away from Canada (Yes, I did check)!  If you had told me a year ago that I’d even be applying for jobs in that part of the country, I’d call you crazy.  I don’t know where I’m going to be living in the next month.  I don’t know what church I’ll be attending (another thing that hasn’t changed in 20 years).  I don’t know what I’ll be doing.  And every year after this one seems less and less secure.

Obviously, part of this is just life, and the process of growing up.  I understand that.  It happens to everyone, Christian and non-Christian.  But, as a Christian, it forces me to ask myself if I really trust God.  Do I really trust Him to finish what He started?  Do I really trust Him to keep me following Christ, even if that’s across the country?  Do I really trust that His will is better than my will?  Do I really trust Jesus to be all that He’s promised to be?

I need to, that’s for sure.  And so I pray, earnestly, that God would give me faith.  Not just an intellectual, theologically rich faith.  But a real faith from my heart that leads to resting in Jesus, to joy in Jesus, and, ultimately, to a life that glorifies the King.  I don’t have that right now.  But 1 Peter says that Christians are being guarded by God’s power, through faith.  It is God who gives faith.  All that’s left is for me to ask Him, to trust Him to do it, and to keep following Him as He fulfills His promises.

Jesus never promises that I’ll be able to see what’s going to happen.  One day, Peter was fishing for fish.  In the course of that same day, he stopped doing what he was doing, and started following the King of the universe, fishing for men.  That’s how quickly Jesus changes things.

So I don’t know what will happen.  But God does.  And I’m going to let that be enough for me.

May we trust in Your wisdom and not our own, God. May we find everything we need, from salvation to breakfast, in You.  Amen.

God bless,

Neal E.


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