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.