Control, Well It's Slipping Right Through My Hands (Thank God)

Sunday 23 September 2007

Control. I've been pondering it a lot recently. I've always prided myself on being the kind of person who is aware of and unwilling to control other people, to give them the freedom that I so value in my own journey, to learn their own lessons without me giving them advice, so that the lessons become their own journey, not something someone has imposed from without where they cannot gain the benefit from what they've learnt. Institutional and cultural control is something that I have always been aware of and seen the inherent dangers in. People must have the freedom to be able to make their own way without undue control from outside. The human tendency to control others must be guarded against vigilantly because it springs up so readily that it's scary. So when I get a glimpse of how I do succumb at times to control mode ... well, it feels funny. It's irritating to see the shadow side of your apparent strengths. Just when I thought I was heading closer to being some kind of breezy Zen master, it's a rather disconcerting kick in the guts when I see how unattractive and untrusting of God I still am when I'm really afeared.

I remember someone saying once that your biggest downfall is not in your weaknesses, but in your strong suit, which is kinda an interesting thing to ponder. But anyway, I digress. Controlling others is never going to be my biggest downfall. It's just what I'm dealing with right now.)

These ruminations have come out of a two-month-long bout of illness, preceded by a new friendship that I think in hindsight I handled badly and which has apparently ended badly, preceded by a marriage breakup, so it's not like that's anything resembling general real life. But it's definitely a rubber hitting the road-type scenario - the waters rise, and then you get to see some stuff in yourself which you thought maybe had gone, stuff that you desperately wish would go. Fears that may get to lie dormant for most of the time, but they're still there, informing my view.

Control. It's probably what I loathe most about Christian culture. For me it really shows how small someone's view of God is. And controlling Christian environments demonstrate like nothing else that we don't believe that God can work without us manipulating him like some giant cosmic puppet, or without us constructing elaborate structures to enable him to do his stuff.I can understand control and will-to-power in the grab-it-for-myself world, but surely that area should be very different within the bounds of Christianity. But alas, not. We are supposedly about a God of love - but all too often, our love descends to control. Christian communities are meant to resemble families. But I guess the scariest people are those that we love. They are the ones that hurt us the most.

God is able to reach anyone however he chooses - and quicker and better and more beautifully without me sticking my stupid head in and stuffing it all up. St Francis' dictum to "preach the gospel at all times; if necessary use words" should be branded on the forehead of everybody who claims the status of a Christian ;)

God needs us way less than we think he does. Way less than I used to believe that he did. I cannot subscribe anymore to the maxim, "God can't if you won't". Believing otherwise doesn't negate our ability to do stuff for God; it doesn't send us to the couch to be potatoes (that would be something else that does that ... perhaps even a God-inspired season of life, he being able to carry on just fine without us, thanks). It just puts it all in the perspective with which we can walk in a life alongside God and do stuff for him on the way if, as Jesus said, his yoke is light.

So much amazing stuff happens when I relinquish control, loosen my fisted grip on things that scare and discombobulate me, and I get to see the texture of my life so much better. I am realising lately that in certain aspects of my life, the more broken, darkened parts, it takes less than what I originally thought to get me scurrying back into the confining jail of not wanting to budge unless I can see the outcome. Like a cockroach. Those fears limit my horizons. And after all, it's the horizons that get my heart beating faster.

Ah, the human ability to be able to see further than we can travel at any given point. It's a frustrating one, to be sure, but I guess it's all about how you look at it. If I take my ego out of the picture, glimpses of yet-unreached horizons become an opportunity to prepare myself better for what is to come, so that when the horizon becomes my reality I have conditioned the soles of my feet a little bit better to be able to walk in it.

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