Out of Control

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by Kurt Maerschel

For the last two weeks I have faced a situation in my life that seems completely out of my control. The worst thing is that I can’t seem to stop worrying about it. I know it doesn’t make logical sense, but we humans love to be in control.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how little control we have. Take this weekend for example. I am planning a BBQ, and the weather predicted is thunderstorms. Yesterday I wanted to get a quick taco at the drive through, and all I found was a super long line – so anything but a “quick” taco. Take for example airplane delays - whether it is technical or weather related, we simply can’t control it. And then there are robo-calls - super annoying - yet I can’t seem to stop them with the many apps and filters I try to load onto my phone.

These examples are rather benign and funny, but life shows us much more difficult situations we are unable to control. Take for example cancer. Who gets it? When do they get it? Why do they get it? Many of these factors are out of our control. How about the death of a loved one? It does not matter whether it was an accident, or after a long known illness – it’s simply out of our control. Why is this?

I feel lost in a world that largely seems outside of my control. In fact everything around me suggests that I should be in control. The favorite Texan mantra of “picking oneself up by his/her own bootstraps” is just something we have learned growing up here. Popular culture suggests in many ways that all of us should be in constant control of everything. People show off their successful home projects on Facebook. TV Shows like “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” “Fixer Upper,” or “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” are all reminders for us on how to get our lives under control. Advertisements suggest that if we just had the right investment broker our retirement worries would be under control. We celebrate people who seem to be in perfect control of something in their lives, such as musicians or gymnasts.

As a theologian I ask myself, “What does God teach us about this?” At first glance it seemed “not a lot.” To the contrary, the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are full of rules which are enacted so we get our lives under control. But reading a little further, I realize that the Israelites wandering aimlessly in the desert and being dependent on everything to come from God is an incredible example of how people walk with God while being completely out of control. Jonah wants to stay in control by running away from God; then he is swallowed by a “big fish,” and he realizes that he is not in control. The book of Job is probably the prime example in the Hebrew Bible of how humans are not in control of their lives. And finally, it is Jesus who incarnates – meaning becoming fully human and fully God- from a position of absolute power to utter “control-lessness.” I think it shows that God wants to point us to the fact that we are not in control. This is just the way things are.

Is it good or bad? In my experience it can be both. In the beginning I felt distant from God; I had no time for God while trying to regain control over a situation I possibly could not. However, when I realized that God uses these moments so we can be drawn closer, I was able to embrace it. If you feel out of control, I would like to encourage you to follow the examples of the Hebrews and of Jesus Christ and accept the reality as it is. Embrace Jesus Christ as your companion and friend who will lead you through uncontrollable reality.

If you have questions about this article, please feel free to talk to me in person, by email (kurt@kpumc.org), or by phone (972-835-1909).