I remember going through grad school so well...getting good grades, knowing I connected well with people, having a heart for the hurting. But it wasn't until my internship, when I met real people with real pain that it all came together for me. It was during those formative months that turned into years that the questions started to roll in. I will never forget the most poignant one...the one that I replay over and over in my head. It was from a female whom had been raped over 1200 times...every day for a period of years during her childhood. And she crossed her arms and sat back in her chair...looked me square in the eyes and asked me where God was in THAT. It was in those next moments that I very quickly realized that I had to develop a theology of suffering. The nice Christianese answers that placated, didn't so much as put a bandaid on her wounds...in fact, some of them slapped her in the face. Not my own theology of suffering...but an understanding of where God is in the pain, in the chaos, and the uncertainty of this world.
Out of a number of situations like that, God was moving me to get my hands dirty. To stop with the words and start with my talents, my time, and my resources. The things that God has gifted me with...that were always meant to be used for His purposes anyway. So I did. Not for me, but because I had realized how easy it was to say something and how difficult it was to do something. And that the real message of love and care is in the doing, much more so than in the words. But then my safe little world was shattered. And I literally wanted to hole up in my house. Buy security cameras and alarm systems... and to stop caring about anyone and everyone outside of my own. I wanted to hide away from the world here. I gripped tightly to the illusion of control that I had. But it was just that: an illusion of control.
Someone told me this summer to "take control of my life." It wasn't necessarily said nicely nor was it said to spur me on to greatness. It was said in anger and with the additional slap in the face of, "stop playing the victim." If you know me at all, you know that "victim" isn't something I play. I may be many things...passive aggressive, stubborn, you name it...but victim is not a card that I play. However, those two statements, actually changed me for the better. I started to really think about some new ways that I could "take control" of my life. There are many ways that we are often unaware of so I stepped back and took a good hard look at how I could "take control." And I made changes. And I felt better. And more in control.
But it was an illusion. Control is just that. Because try as we might to do and to be, we DON'T have control. When I am really anxious...or when my life feels in disarray...I clean. Why? Because it gives me an illusion of control...its something I CAN control...something I can do with real and immediate results. And it eases my anxiety and feelings of chaos. But the reality still remains. Lets break this down:
I could feed my kids only whole organic foods, not vaccinate, follow car seat safety to the enth degree, refuse to have weapons as toys for my kids, never allow screen time, put plastic forks in all of my outlets, and hide the poison cleaners (or make my own from vinegar). But my kids could still get cancer. Or be hit by a car. Or have a tree limb fall on them.
I could hoard money...hide it under my mattress, or in a bank account. I could work and work and work, spend as little as possible...but the dollar could turn cold and it could all be worth nothing. I could invest in silver, or gold...but the value of these too may diminish...perhaps the strong investment is soy? It could all be gone in an instant...the blink of an eye.
I could live in Michigan where there are not hurricanes, and rarely tornadoes or earthquakes. No volcanoes or tsunamis here. But the lake could take my child. Or the lake effect snow cause me to drive off the road. Controlling natural disasters...try as we might...we cannot. The tornado may come, if not to my part of MI, then when I vacation at Disney. I don't really have control.
I could hover around and over my children and exhaust my energy trying to encompass them in my own private bubble. I could homeschool them to keep them close, and refuse them to partake of sleepovers or birthday parties. But tragedy could still strike. The elusive white van could still drive up my road despite my best efforts to hover around and over my children. Two years ago someone was shot in the field behind my home while my children played outside under the watchful care of adults. So long, safe bubble.
You see, it is all an illusion. I am not saying we should not try...but we must learn to call it what it is. Because when the bad things happen we tend to own it. We think it is our fault. And it isn't. Because we don't have much more control over preventing these things, then we did in making them happen. Sometimes I wonder how things happened as they did...as they have. And I start to own it. I deserved it. I failed. I made it happen. I couldn't stop it. I was stupid. I was nieve. I chose this. But the reality is...there is a little bit of truth and a lot of lies in all of it. Taking control really means...we do our best. We give what we can. We own what is ours (our feelings, successes, losses and failures). But at the end of the day...or the year...it wasn't actually all about us. Our job is to put that control Where is rightfully belongs. Where it always existed in the first place. Not in the promise of ease, or prosperity. But in the security of knowing that no matter what...come triumphant joy or bottomless sorrow...we aren't alone. And He is in it and over it and through it. And in that knowledge we find our strength. Strength to face tomorrow and the new year. Strength to let it go...to release...ourselves. And in the surrendering...the releasing...we find that is our only true measure of control. TRUST. The world will tell you that you are a fool to trust what you cannot see...that it is weak to need that faith...but when we trust, the striving ends and the fear fades. It is here that we find freedom...to succeed and fail. To live and die. To stop the illusions...and to exist in reality. To let live and let go.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. ~ John 14:27