When I was in high school (no, not a one-room schoolhouse!) six of us “serious students” (probably cutting class together)packed into a friend’s small car. (Don’t remember its make or anybody’s name; memory densely foggy). Down a steep hill. Too fast. A sudden left turn onto a suburban side street. Too sharp. Like an amusement park ride, car tipped and rolled. (We weren’t amused.) Thankfully no one was hurt. Car landed on a soft lawn, and we, packed tighter than sardines, therefore couldn’t bounce around inside like a pinball machine. But I remember this: a frightening feeling of being out of control.
A rare feeling, especially at that age. Ah, youth! Teenagers can control just anything. Not that nothing never intimidated me. Indeed, teachers and tests and test grades did. Presenting a three-minute speech in front of thirty classmates did. Yet, with few exceptions, I was king of my kingdom. I was in control.
A delusion: I was not. Years later, when my father was dying at home, I, the “king”, had no control. I could pray and comfort, but not heal. More years later, when my mother was dying in the hospital, comatose, I couldn’t even awaken her to say, “I love you, Mom.”
The youthful control-delusion bleeds over into young adulthood. We find our place in the work-world and begin to climb the ladder. Little question that we can. Work hard; you can be on top! It all depends on us. We can reach our goal, however high, because this is America. Anyone can grow up to be president. We hold the reins of our vocational destiny.
Ultimately, finally, we awake to realize the delusion. The insight doesn’t come like a light suddenly flipped on in a dark room. Rather it comes in a multitude of individual, isolated experiences of no control. Until the accumulation of those individual experiences, like a foot-deep snowstorm, blankets us with the knowledge: so little power we wield.
At almost 73, I’ve learned—not completely yet, but much—I control little. In Mourning into Dancing, Walter Wangerin writes, “In physical sickness we feel the dust we are and suffer the knowledge that we do not control even the corpus in which we ‘live’.” I was pretty healthy my whole life. Until nine years ago. Two major back surgeries and a dozen tests led to this diagnosis: primary lateral sclerosis. Unlike colds and flu, there’s no getting better. No resting up a few days until health returns. It won’t kill me, but it won’t go away and will worsen.
Corpus isn’t only our control-less experience. No control over a spouse who wants out . . . over being fired unfairly from a job . . . over the tax rate you must pay . . . over (of course) the weather. Like a few years ago when we vacationed at the Florida Panhandle. Rained every day. No spigot to turn it off. “Come on, God!” got nothing but more rain. The list of “no control” winds on and on until it reaches the last “no control”—death.
Here’s a scary thought: no one in a position of world power really controls what happens. Sure they exercise power. Obama’s executive actions affect our lives. Hillary or The Donald will impact America. But, even with their best policies, too many variables will produce a myriad of “unintended consequences.”
So: are we trapped in a speeding car turning sharply and rolling over and over? Is that life? Are we all without control grabbing for a temporary handle? Here’s old good news to consider . . .
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
This is the psalmist’s way of telling us Someone is in control of “all”: The LORD. God, the Father of Jesus. God of the Bible. His reign rules over all.
Makes you wonder why we don’t all run to him. He’s not a tyrant. He is love. He is good. He is wise. He is merciful and gracious. What fools we are—we who can control virtually nothing—not to run to him who will send us from himself for all eternity if we don’t run to him now . . .
Here’s more old good news. It centers in the most dynamic, transformational event in human history . . .
Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Before that day when every knee must bow, this is the day to willingly surrender to him. To the One who indeed is Lord, in control of all things. Even our next breath. Even our eternity. And he’s coming. And when he does he’ll even take control of our corpus . . .
. . . we eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.