The Crushing Illusion of Control

I've never known my own weakness like I have this year, never felt more overwhelmed with my frailty. It's nothing someone has to fix or mend or preach to me about—I know the answer is to see the cross in its fullness and my place before it, but it doesn't change the feeling. Theologically I have a spot for the place of weakness and need in regard to the gospel, but (I suspect like most of us) the actual feeling of weakness and need isn't quite as beautiful as good theology makes it seem. It's an ugly spot. There's not much attractive about limping, saying "I can't," or not having any control over how the spiritual/emotional/psychological affects the physical. It's a place where arrogance can grow—a refusal to hear counsel, an intentional ignorance toward truth, and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps exit from whatever disappoints. It's also a place where humility can grow. I'm not sure which direction is harder, but I know neither of them feel good in the moment. 

During an errand run last week I felt the now familiar panic rising from somewhere in my chest. It stems from a specific event I witnessed nearly a year and a half ago, but it was exacerbated by thirty other events happening in my life around the same time. It is an overwhelming feeling of a lack of control. Nothing I could do in that season of life could change the circumstances of our lives: I couldn't get pregnant and stay pregnant, I couldn't give my husband a job, I couldn't fix what was broken in my work-place and church, I couldn't sell our house, I couldn't make enough money to support us on my own, I couldn't fix my husband's fears, I couldn't stop the gun violence around our house, I couldn't stop the cop from being shot, I couldn't stop someone from breaking into my car—I couldn't do anything. I felt absolutely powerless to change any circumstance in my life. And it crushed me. 

We love to quote II Corinthians 4:8 & 9, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed," but we rarely begin with verse 7:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

The surpassing power belongs to God and not to us—and the moment we get that wrong (and we will, friends), we panic, we fear, we are anxious, we search for some sort of fix to give us back the illusion of control: exercise, diets, essential oils, medication, massages. None of those things is wrong in and of themselves, but they can all numb the thing we need most: to remember God is the one with surpassing power and not us. And more than numbing us, they can crush us. 

This past year I could not numb the fear. I could not fix the panic. I could not stuff down the tears or fears or emotions or dreams. I could not fix myself. The only thing I could do was go to the cross again and again and again and again and again and again. Take my crushed jar of clay, once full of life and vitality and knowledge and success, and say, "I cannot fix this and I cannot even make you fix it when it bring it to you. I can only trust that someday you will." 

Maybe that's you today, friend. I don't know. Maybe it's not. Maybe you're on top of your game, drinking your supplements and rubbing whichever oil you fancy on your feet. Maybe your bank account is comfortable and your job is certain. Maybe you can get pregnant if your husband merely looks at you. Maybe your church is nearly perfect. But maybe none of that is true for you and you're not sure where next month's rent is coming from and your knee injury is keeping you from exercising and you've stopped buying pregnancy tests because it's just a waste of money now and maybe your church is really hurting right now, limping along. Maybe you have panic attacks on the way to the dry-cleaners too. Maybe God is healing you, but it's taking longer than you wanted. 

I don't have wild words of wisdom for you today, but I read this from Scott Sauls and Russ Ramsey this morning and saw myself in it. I need to know it's okay to limp and I need to know the leaders I respect and follow limp too. It reminds me I'm an alien, but there are other aliens here too—and there's a God who is on his throne and one cross for us all and the ground before it is level and only for those who limp.