I was reading author Donald Miller’s latest book, “Scary Close,” when a sentence popped out from the page: “the root of all sin is the desire for control.” Throughout the next couple of days I kept going back and reading that same sentence again and again. As the three stooges’ saying goes, “I resemble that remark,” and I don’t like it! I kept trying to prove it wrong. How could it be that simple? There has to be a deeper root to all my iniquities. But as I piece them out one by one, every sin I am good at is caused by this profound desire to have control, even going all the way to my sinful reactions and feelings about other people.
When I am irritated, it is usually because I cannot control the other person’s choices or how they are choosing to act towards me. When I stumble on my own pride, it is because deep down I want to feel like I can do something; that I am the master of something. Mastering something makes me feel like I have control. But that never lasts long. Even my jealousy of a friend’s success is tied to control. I am envious because I can’t will myself to the top. I can’t control what others feel or how they react to my work.
I am embarrassed of my need to control and I try to hide it. I attempt to create a false, relaxed, easy going self. I walk around with this mask on most days. I try to appear laid back, cool, a standard type B. It is so ironic, because I am so type A but I spend hours trying to convince people I am not type A, which is a completely type A thing to do. Why do I work so hard?
I am afraid of losing control.
So what is the opposite of control? As my 6-year old niece could tell you, it all lies in letting it go. Letting it go -not in the Disney way, not unleashing all the inner rage and causing a massive snow pile up, but releasing my need to control things. I have to surrender. There is a word I hate: surrender. It may not be my favorite word, but it is the only way to begin to move toward faith and trust.
I have to learn to trust. So easy to say, but for me next to impossible to do. Since college, I have been aware that I have a part of my brain that doesn’t regulate serotonin very well. This is a fancy way of saying that I have a compulsive need to be in control. You know how we joke that someone has OCD if they need their space clean. For me it is a daily reality. If I am not careful, that compulsive side of me takes over and I become obessessed with perfection. I am all too familiar with what my unchecked need for control can do in my life. So I am learning to trust, and some days I win that battle and other days I have to remind myself that it’s a process.
God has been helping me learn this one. It seems that in every facet of my life I am having to learn to let it go. From dating to dining, I am learning that perhaps I need to do the work and let go of the outcome. I preach about faith all the time, but I think I forget that the Greek word for faith, Pistis, means the following: faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness. The same word is used for both faith and fidelity. If I am going to be faithful, I have to actively trust. Faith is an active noun. Anytime I turn away from that and start leaning on my own ability to do, I am being unfaithful; I am returning to my patterns of control.
As I have shared in recent blogs, I am an injured runner, and this weekend I watched people I train with finish a half marathon. There is no amount of will power that could get me back to running. I have cried, I have cussed, I have tried to be optimistic, I have been pessimistic, I have called every doctor, I have pretended I wasn’t in pain, I have tried it all; and finally I have surrendered to what is my current reality. I have to trust that I will move through this season and that God is in control. I hate this, but I am learning. I am learning to be faithfull and faith-filled. I wish God and I were working on other spiritual disciplines, but this is the one I keep returning to. Surrendering.
As I ready myself to fly into antiquity tomorrow I smile at your meditation. You remind me of my college friend, my fraternity brother and erstwhile business partner. He doesn’t have your faith, just regrets and questions, as intense at 76 as it was at 26. Like you I live in a great deal of denial, probably because I choose silliness rather than trying to chew the last remnant of taste from reality. You seem to chew on reality with each bite either becoming tastier or more acrid. I question your acceptance of reality just as I do my own. But my reality resides in the back of my mind rather than at the forefront. I know it’s there and I accept the fact that it isn’t going to go away with the bat of an eye. My advice to you, which you know I will always give, is to hone your faith but not let it rule your life, accept reality but always nibble at the margins of it. Who knows, maybe you will nibble away part of the margin that will find the chink in the wall of your Chateau d’if (Count of Monte Cristo)…that will lead you to your Abbe Faria (Abbé Faria (Character) – Quotes – IMDb). In your faith in God save a little room for such a personal attachment. Somewhere along the way I hope you find enough satisfaction in your life that you’re not still chewing at 76.
I love you so much my friend, Teddy