21 Sep Am I Controlling or Trusting?
All my life I have been analytical. By definition, that means I study and evaluate just about everything. I seek to use logic and reasoning to answer the question that’s always on my mind: “Why?”
Consequently, I fell in love with science early on in school. Learning why things worked the way they worked has always been fascinating for me. Biology, chemistry, psychology, and math have always been topics I’ve enjoyed. I’ve always loved learning and felt very passionately about the importance of education because I think having knowledge is empowering.
My analytical personality has influenced me in more than just my academics, though. I always want to understand why people act the way they do or how certain relationships work while others fail. I’ve often had questions about God and his Word, too. The questioning in many ways has encouraged my faith, but in other instances, that questioning has led to doubt when I don’t find the answers I’m looking for.
Recently life for me has changed a little bit, giving me certain opportunities for growth I haven’t had in a while. In this process, I have been worried, anxious, and doubtful, and I have felt out of control in some ways. Several people with whom I have shared these feelings with have pointed out to me that in this season, I am letting my analytical side dominate my life. I am overly critical, have unrealistic expectations, and have chosen in many ways to worry about a future I cannot control no matter how hard I try.
“In this process, I have been worried, anxious, and doubtful, and I have felt out of control in some ways.”
In listening to the latest sermon, I immediately resonated with one woman in the story in particular: Rachel. In Genesis 30, Rachel complains to Jacob in no uncertain terms that if he does not give her children she will die. Her desires and her jealousy of her sister Leah’s successes in childbirth motivate her to seek alternate routes to having a child when she is unable to do so. She offers her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob, who then gives birth to babies Rachel names Dan and Naphtali. She chooses those names, reflecting the idea that she is fighting against Leah and that through Bilhah she’s making some headway in getting what she wants. Unlike Leah, the names Rachel chooses do not reflect her faith, but instead reflect her striving (NLT Study Bible, Tyndale Publishers, Copyright 2008).
I am just like Rachel. Her motivations may have been jealousy, discontent, and comparison, and mine are probably not too different from hers. My striving, constant questioning, and fighting the peace God extends to me through his Word and community are fueled by my desire to control my life. If I know the why’s and the how’s, I can prepare for the future. I can plan to deal with hardships, can get ready for heartbreaks, and can make sure I don’t experience failure. If I can control my life by knowing all there is to know, I can self-protect.
That’s how I know that this desire I have is an idol: it motivates me to rebel against the core capacities God has laid out for me as a woman made in his image by seeking to self-protect. When our idols can’t or won’t produce for us, it feels like death. The short-term successes we might experience as a result of our striving (for me, it’s a heightened sense of safety; for Rachel it was having “her own” children and the feeling of winning in the fight against her sister) are just that: short-term. There are consequences for the choices we make, and the idolatry we participate in will never satisfy our souls. The security I might feel at this moment won’t last because there will always be something new to stress over.
“My striving, constant questioning, and fighting the peace God extends to me through his Word and community are fueled by my desire to control my life.”
When Rachel finally does conceive and give birth, she names her son Joseph, saying the Lord has taken away her disgrace. Even though she technically already has children through Bilhah, Rachel acknowledges that the way she’s gone about everything was all wrong because she went outside of God’s plan for her, refusing to humble herself and trust the Creator of her soul to provide for her needs. Joseph’s birth showed Rachel that God really does know best.
Hearing this story I’ve heard all my life in a new way was a “Joseph’s birth” moment for me. Even if my analyzing could give me all the answers I think I need, those answers still are not able to provide rest for my soul. I still feel weary from the stress I put myself through in trying to find those answers—trying to maintain some semblance of control.
Tonight I drove to my favorite sunset spot as fast as I could so I wouldn’t miss the last few minutes of a sunset I just knew would be gorgeous. I looked out over the pasture as evening fog began to creep over from the trees on the edge of the field. The orange purple sky and the sun’s warm yellow glow reflecting on the mist painted a scene pictures could never do justice. The beautiful sight, accompanied by sounds of stillness, left me completely speechless. It was a time I have truly been in awe. Parked on the side of the road, standing up through my sunroof to drink deeply of this moment, all I could say is “How great Thou art.”
If God could speak something so beautiful into existence without my help, why do I want to interfere in the good work he is going to bring to completion in my life (Philippians 1:6)? If God, the one who created that moment, the one who made me, the one who knows all the answers, holds my future, then my striving for control is a waste of my time. Today, the question is this: am I willing to submit to his good plans for me, or am I going to continue to follow a pathway that will inevitably lead to disgrace?
Hannah loves going for a drive, being by the water, and learning about anything at all. Getting a new stamp in her passport is her favorite feeling and she loves to sit on the porch on warm summer nights. She loves to make people laugh and cook them some supper. Hannah attends our Powdersville campus.