When you are young, you try and pretend that you are someone you are not. Part of that is because you don’t really know who you are. But part of that is you are trying to be someone cool. Personally, I liked to project the image that I was an easy-going, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants dreamer who simply went with the flow.
That was silly. Because that’s not who I am at all.
Allow me to introduce myself. Hi. I’m Nate, and I am a control freak.
In my defense, I am not your typical control freak. I don’t care about the details and have no desire to micromanage them. Honestly? I hate details. Details suck the very marrow out of life. I’m also not the kind of control freak that has to do everything. I am very happy delegating and handing things off to other people. Especially if it involves finances. Ugh. Just give me the bottom line. Is it red or black? That’s all I need to know.
What I want to control is the outcome. How are things going to play out? What is the impact? What will this look like? That’s what I want to control.
I’m 34 now. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally learned the secret about controlling the outcome: I can’t.
There is a story in Luke 18 where Jesus is traveling along a road just outside of Jericho. A blind man hears that Jesus is passing by and he cries out to Jesus, “Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
When Jesus hears the blind man’s cries he walks over to him and asks, “What do you want?”
That’s me. I am the blind beggar. Because I want to see the future. I want to see how the decisions I am making today are going to play out tomorrow. Because the truth is, I’m not sure. I’ve got hunches and ideas and hopes. But I can’t see what’s really going to happen. I’m not sure the decisions I am making will play out the way I hope they will.
I’ve got to be honest and say that I’m afraid.
Who isn’t afraid? Who doesn’t fear that things are going to go very badly because of the decision you made today? Aren’t we just fooling ourselves into thinking that we can see beyond the sunset and predict what is going to happen? Isn’t that the ultimate illusion of control?
You see (pun intended), we are all just blind beggars on the side of the road.
As blind beggars, it is really hard to trust. Years ago I led a mission/education trip to inner city Toronto. Part of the experience was driving around and dropping off breakfast to homeless people around the city. In between stops, our host told us that many homeless people will not take food from people because they fear it being poisoned – something that actually does happen. Being a beggar is hard enough. But a blind beggar? How do you trust people when you can’t look them in the eye?
It can be hard to trust God because we can’t look him in the eye. Oh, I know the platitudes. He gave us the bible/Jesus/tradition/saints/creation – of course we can trust him. Predicting the response of your well meaning friend when you tell them you are struggling to trust God is easy. “We can’t see the future, but he can. Don’t worry, sister, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean God doesn’t have it under control.” But we already know this. We have the verses memorized. “God works all things for the good of those who love him.” “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.” But sometimes those verses don’t help. Sometimes they just make us feel worse. The combination of knowing the verses and feeling the distrust is a Molotov cocktail that has the potential to blow up any faith. Who hasn’t felt like a horrible Christian because they knew the answers in their head and yet was betrayed by their heart?
So we dress ourselves in our Sunday best, hoping to hide the mess, and walk into church feeling like we are the only ones.
I am the only one stuck in a job that brings me no satisfaction. A job that makes me feel like less of a human and not more of one. A job that pays the bills, but doesn’t feed my soul. And if I could just see a way out, just see an alternative, just see that if I left this job that me and my family would be okay. If I could only see….
Am I the only one who wishes they could see how their marriage could be different? Because right now, I can’t see how things will ever be the way they were. I can’t see how we will reconcile what happened to us. Because what I see in the past and what I see in the present doesn’t allow me to see anything positive in the future. I can’t see how counseling would make a difference. I can’t see how the kids are going to be okay. I can’t see…
And in our blindness we think that we are the only beggar on the side of the road crying out, “Lord, have mercy on me.”
The truth is we are not.
The truth is that the road winding its way to the church doors is filled with blind beggars crying out, “Lord, have mercy on us.”
The control freak in me wants the reassurance that God can be trusted. Give me the magic combination of Bible verses to unlock the mystery of trust. I’m almost positive the one I have is wrong. It seems I am missing the final one in the sequence that will unlock my grip on the future. I’m almost sure it is the third one. Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, and…if only I had that one. Then it would be better.
Bible verses are not to be used like combinations. Or recipes.
The Bible isn’t some magic book full of incantations that will cast a spell over the parts of our lives that won’t work. It doesn’t matter how many times I recite a verse. It is not magic.
Trust, I am finding, is an active choice. It is to acknowledge one’s place alongside the road and take responsibility to do the only thing a person can do. Cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me.”
Lord, have mercy on me.
Maybe our eyes will be open just enough to see that we aren’t the only ones begging along the road.
Lord, have mercy on us.