Why it’s Good to Relinquish Control

“Accept that while you crave resolution – an ending to the story, and a happy ending at that – the narrative arc you’ve learned doesn’t apply. Stop trying to map the events of your life onto it. You are strong enough to be unsure. Keep moving.”

Maggie Smith

(Credits: @maggiesmithpoet, shared by @sniequist on instagram, July 2019)

I saw this quote shared on Instagram recently, and it really stood out to me. Not so much the need for a resolution in everything, but the idea of being strong enough to be unsure in life.

I am a planner. I have always loved making a timetable and the idea of structure. I’m not actually that good at sticking to timetables or structure, but knowing they exist makes me feel like I’m in control – I’m the one in the driving seat. I know what has to be done and what the time scale is for it, and 99% of the time I get done what needs to be done by the time it needs to be done – and, let’s face it, the schedule is thrown out whether adhered to or not.

So when it comes to things I’m not in control of, I feel… uncomfortable. Uneasy. And in all honestly, a big part of me assumes it’s not going to work out. (I’m a real team-player, can’t you tell?)

I’ve found that marriage is a good teacher in this. Tom and I operate in very different ways. He doesn’t plan in the same ways I do. A lot of the time he’ll jump into something and then work things out as he goes, having analysed it enough to move forward. He’s smart, and things usually work out. But watching him during the process can make me squirm internally.

A few weeks ago we were putting up shelves for spices in our kitchen. We looked at the space, held up the shelves and figured out where we wanted them, and then Tom set to work putting them up. Watching him, straight away I was secretly wishing I hadn’t got him involved and had just done it myself. My first step would have been getting out a measuring tape and pencil and marking up where I wanted the nails. He went straight in with hammer and when we hung the shelves, sure enough (I thought to myself), they were too close together and the jars didn’t fit through the gaps.

I was offering advice – telling him what I would do – but he had different methods. He did get a pencil, but also string and a straight edge… The point I’m getting at here is that the shelves are up – you can’t see the holes from the mistakes made along the way to getting them on the wall, they look great and are super practical and sturdy. Even though we approached the situation with different ideas and methods, it all worked out. I wasn’t in control, but we now have the shelves that we needed, and realistically, I couldn’t have done it on my own, and would probably have made mistakes along the way too.

I think a lot of people are like me – with a control freak lurking inside a laid back and calm exterior. Some people hide it well, others choose not to even try and hide it. But here’s the thing – if we’re made to feel so uncomfortable by not being in control, are we really believing Jesus for who He is?

Here’s the thing – scripture tells us over and over that Jesus takes our burdens, gives us life, peace, freedom, and rest.

In scripture we find words like:

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

“I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”

“You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Yet in the midst of something that’s not going the way I planned it, I feel in despair, frantic and frustrated.

Where is my trust?

My trust is in my ability; my capacity; my understanding; my knowledge. And all of these things are frail, fallible, and actually far more difficult than giving up control to Jesus.

There’s certain measures of life that we conjure as young girls -the job we’ll have, the money we’ll make, the house we’ll live in, the type of person we’ll marry, the age we’ll have kids etc etc. As we hit our mid-20s and realise how naive we had been to think we could hit those “goals”, we often feel like failures. Did you know that quarter life crises are now actually a well documented thing?

The reality is that not one of the things we planned for in our youth are within our control. But more critically, none of them equal happiness or success either.

When we meet Jesus our lives are somewhat flipped upside down. Things that were once of utmost importance no longer matter, and things we’d never considered are at the forefront of our minds. An example of that personally – I was finishing university and heading on a career path that I wasn’t feeling all that excited about but not sure what else I could do, and when I became a Christian I realised that having a career wasn’t what mattered, but for me working in an environment with values that I truly believed in was more important, and being able to see a difference through my work.

Jesus empowers us to live differently – not to measure successes and failures, but to live with abandon in His love, seeking Him every day and serving him in our every deed. When we do this, we realise things we have the strength to do, that our words carry power of life, and that our calling is beyond a mundane living.

So why do we still hold so many things to account? Why do we still live disappointed by not hitting the stats we once hoped for?

Crucially, because we’re human. We are fallible. We’re broken. The human condition is that we make mistakes and we strive for self betterment over everything else.

But this quote reminded me – sometimes we have to take stock. Think about the things we have got comfortable with or things that we’ve settled into and left Jesus out of.

Psalm 90 teaches us to number our days; that every single day is valuable. So let’s not waste them running after our plans and schedules that ultimately lead us to nothing important, let’s embrace God and live each day to worship Him, and see where that adventure takes us! Let’s live unsure of the future because we know that God gives us the strength for whatever is to come!

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