My mom likes to tell a story about my older brother on his first day of kindergarten. She woke him up early on this monumental first day of school, got him dressed, and made breakfast. She drove him to school, and like any other mom, parked to walk him into his first day of class. As they approached the front doors, my brother Ryan froze in his tracks. Thinking he was nervous, my mom leaned down to reassure him. She asked, “What’s wrong?” To her surprise, Ryan answered, “I don’t want you to walk me into kindergarten. That’s for little kids.” A little taken aback, my mom said her goodbyes and watched as my brother independently walked into his first day of school, waving over his shoulder as he went.
I think that this attitude of desiring independence and wanting to be in control of our own lives is something we learned at a young age, and only grows stronger as we become older. I can go through the self-checkout line at the grocery store to ensure minimal human contact. I can order nearly anything off of Amazon, and it will come right to my front door. We live in a “have it your way” culture, and if we are honest, we love (might even be obsessed with) being in control.
However, when I read about Jesus I’ve found that following him means that I must be willing to give up control. In Mark 8, after Peter takes a failed shot at rebuking him, Jesus calls all of the disciples around to explain what it really means to give your life up to follow him. In Mark 8:34-37, Jesus says:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Jesus is telling his disciples that having control of everything is not nearly worth missing out on having a relationship with him. To gain everything, to have control of everything, to have all of the boxes checked, to always have good grades, a good job, a perfect family, and a good-looking bank account, none of it is worth missing out on what really matters: a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. I have come to realize that to have a relationship with Jesus is to check in personal agendas and take on his. One that looks like washing feet, caring for the hurting, and even loving people that you disagree with. Our call is not to be in control, but to live and love like the One who has always been and always will be in control. So, how can we do this?
- Make a list of all of the things you struggle to give up control of. Hand the list off to a trusted friend who will pray alongside you to give control of these things over to God.
- When a lack of control makes you anxious, take a walk and look for all of the ways God is working in the world around you.
- Start each day, before you even get out of bed, by saying (yes, out loud): “God, I trust you. You are in control, not me.”