Some people flatter me by saying I’m disciplined. It’s true, in the morning I make a list of what I need or want to get done along with a timeline for it all so I can prioritize what need(s) will get done before work. Before I leave my job I often make a list of what else I’d like to finish before Mike gets home as to better plan my time. Time management is important to me. Scheduling everything forces me to stay on task and releases any frustration I may have if I don’t get everything done. Unfinished tasks are then not a source of irritation because I failed to see them or forgot; I’m able to see I simply did not have enough time. There’s some insight into my neurotic head of mine that you didn’t really want to see, but I wanted to share. (By the way, I have one hour and nine minutes to finish this reflection according to my morning schedule.)
As I was praying this morning asking the Lord for direction He impressed upon me the constant desire and ability for control. Americans have the ability to control a lot of things in their lives. I got to choose if I wanted to marry and to whom. Mike and I choose what temperature we’d like our home to be set. I was given the opportunity to choose the job in which I now work. Mike and I both chose the college we attended after high school. Daily we choose what food we’d like to eat. I choose whether or not I sacrifice my to-do list in order to pay attention to the person in need next to me. You get the point. Many of us have the freedom to choose almost anything we want in our daily lives. This ability leads to an unquenchable desire to always choose for ourselves no matter how insignificant or great the choice.
Compare this with other countries. After seeing various areas of life I get choices in I thought back to my time in a handful of Nigerian villages. The natives in those areas usually have arranged marriages. Their huts certainly do not have central air to set at a desired temperature. The Nigerian people I visited do not even have an equivalent as to what job they take for a living. While I chose what college to attend they are lucky to have a school offered to them at any age at all! While I search my cupboards for the next adventurous recipe they simply grab the crop that is ripest for dinner.
Yes, we Americans have it good. It would be easy to end here and celebrate our freedom thanking God for giving us the abundance of relationships, safety, provision, education and food, and, we should. However, the realization we are able to choose so much is not all positive. Because of the freedom in my own life I have somehow developed an addiction to that control. I get troubled when I am unable to control or choose my own circumstances. This is common for most people but should not be excused.
During prayer and meditation on control several verses came to mind. Intentionally breathing Psalm 118:57 helps focus my mind at the start of prayer, “You are my portion, O Lord, I have promised to obey your word.” As I breathe in “You are my portion, O Lord” I remember the continual effort I must make to shift my paradigm from this world to true Reality. Nothing on this earth will satisfy or provide for me, but God. Breathing out, “I have promised to obey your word,” reminds me life with God means God calls the shots and I no longer choose or control my circumstances. “I have promised to obey.” I have promised to listen and follow the God who is my portion regardless of what He asks or where He brings me.
Galatians 2:20 says, “I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Talk about losing control! Choosing life with God means I die to myself. I die to my own desires. I die to my controlling nature. I die so I can live eternally with Christ. Jesus was killed by the people for the people. Just as if a loved one jumped in front of a bullet for you and you make it your life’s goal to make it up to them or their family, so it is with God. Once you “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) and died to commune with you, you cannot help but make it your life’s goal to live for Him.
Paul reminds his readers in I Corinthians about their Reality and life goal: “Do not you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body.”(I Cor. 6:19-20) Listen to that language! God is in us now. We are not our own. We were bought. Life with God requires us to relinquish control of our lives.
The Roman church got an earful on this subject. Paul goes on for quite awhile telling the Church and its people you have two options, there is no third. You can either be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. What’s so striking is no matter what you choose you are a slave. You are not a free person, period. Take a look:
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks to God, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of our body in slavery to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 6:16-23
After reading these verses we see the Bible is clear that no matter how natural it is for you to have control over your circumstances or how convenient it is to choose anything in your day, you don’t always get to anymore. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just what life with God means. You can’t worship God and yourself. You can’t claim God as Lord over your life while you run it. We are all given two choices; there is no third. We can either be slaves to our own emotions, desires, and circumstances or we can be slaves to a most merciful God. Relinquish your control and become a slave to righteousness. It brings you life forever. It is an easy choice. Unfortunately for an American like me who has the ability to choose so much and is now addicted to control, this takes additional effort. This takes breathing in and out the Word of God on a daily basis. This takes prayer, reflection and intentional submission. Fortunately God helps and it is worth every ounce of my energy.