Thursday, April 26, 2012

Control and the Other

Control seems to be hard-wired into us as humans in this world.  We want control both vertically, when it comes to God, and horizontally, when it comes to interpersonal relationships with others.  We see both of those things in Genesis 3 in the garden after Adam and Eve fell into sin.  We see them hiding from God (control), blame-shifting (more control), and covering themselves from each others (yet more control, this time horizontally).

We are no different from our original parents.  We want God on our terms.  We want Him to be how we want to think He should be.  We want Him to answer our prayers on our terms.  We want to be in charge of the relationship.  We offer our good works and performances as a way to get things on our terms, to control.  We shut God out, and we get angry with Him when He doesn't deliver in the way we want. 

And we do the same thing with each other, as well.  We construct walls to shut people out.  We put out a facade, a persona, to keep people from seeing the real us.  We censor and suppress all of our internal reactions as a way to try to frantically keep control... because God forbid we let someone in so that they can take advantage of us.  For many of us, people have.

But there can be no closeness, and hence no real freedom, where there is an iron-grip on control.  We will never experience the closeness and freedom of being our true selves, taking life as it comes, actually living in this world and the present moment instead of hiding from it, wallowing in the past or worrying and anticipating the future.  We will be enslaved to worry, anxiety, crippling performance pressure, obsessive preoccupations with God knows what, and the crushing weight and constriction of all the self-sufficient, controlling strategies we create.

How do we move away from control and into freedom?  It takes a Presence from outside to move toward us, to knock on our proverbial door, and for us to answer... for us to allow them to come to us on their terms, for us to let go of control, for us to meet them as we truly are, without our walls, without our facades, with our true reactions from within.  Otherwise, "letting go" becomes yet another strategy to handle life on our own.  But to truly let that presence in, on their terms, is terrifying.  I know it is.

Yet this is exactly what God has done toward us in a number of ways.  The ultimate way He has done so is in Jesus Christ -God coming down to us where we are, meeting us on His terms but at our door, as one of us.  It is magnificent if you think about it.  We are running around like chickens with our heads cut off, living behind our performances, trying to control this and that, hoping to keep up appearances here, hoping to avoid that rejection over there, and frantically trying to climb the ladder to a god of our own making, one we envision that operates on our terms.  Yet God comes down, against that grain, against this massive current of the world, and says, "Actually, I'm right here, at your door.  There is no ladder, and your good works don't do diddly to really make things right.  But I have come to meet you and break the chains of your slavery.  Here I am."

But there are other derivative ways God comes down to meet us.  He meets with us in His Word and in the communion of the saints when His body is assembled.  And He also meets with us in the Lord's Supper, which I understand to be exactly that... the divine coming in an earthen vessel to meet us, just like Jesus Himself did in the fullest reality of it.

Should we find it strange, then, that God in so many different ways calls us to give up control and let Him in on His terms and not ours?

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock..." (Rev 3:20)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..."  (Prov 3:5)

"Be anxious for nothing..." (Phil 4)

The whole mechanism for our salvation, which is through faith and by what Jesus has done for us, is a call for us to relinquish control and allow Him to be God and Savior, a call for a real relationship where He comes to us on His terms and we drop all the ways in which we try to control and thus destroy closeness and relationship with Him.  And what is the biggest way we do this?  With our good works.  Our reliance on our own efforts and goodness, along with other things such as trying to find and fit every answer, is the biggest way we try to keep control and thereby keep God out.

This is what makes relationships scary in many ways, because a truly close relationship involves handing yourself, essentially, (control) over to the other person.  It is 1,000 times more scary than the first time a virgin has sex.  What will they do?  Will they reject you?  Will they judge you?  Will they hurt and betray you?  The past has taught us well, unfortunately, about what can happen.  Most of us, in various ways, will not give up that control for that very reason, and our relationships suffer because of it... including our relationship with God.

Let us remember the ways in which God has come, and still comes, to meet us, to come into our inner room, on His terms.  Let us remember the lengths He went through to do so and the powerful promises He has given us to assure us that He comes to meet us with no harm, no hidden agenda.  And let us meet Him at the door and invite Him in without trying to control the whole thing.