It seems that much of life can become a tug of war between ourselves and the reality of our surroundings. We constantly attempt to gain control of our circumstances, especially when they seem to be spiraling out of control. We want to exercise our strength and at least live under the delusion that we actually have the power, strength, and wit to be able to control our circumstances. But the reality is that we can no more gain control of these uncontrollable circumstances than can a rock pick itself up and fly the length of a football field.
It might sound defeatist, but I think that the sooner we embrace the reality of our own lack of control, the sooner we can embrace the freedom of rolling with our circumstances. In some ways, it reminds me of a car accident and the resulting whiplash that might occur. I have heard people say that if you are ever in a car accident, you should just relax and wait for the impact. That's so much easier said than done. Every inch of our bodies wants to brace ourselves for that impact as a means and measure of self-protection. It's the tightening and tensing of our muscles that causes the whiplash though.
Uncontrollable circumstances in life can be very similar. In an effort to protect ourselves from the results of the "crash," we brace ourselves, thinking that we will be so much better off. We grab on to whatever we can put our hands on and hold on for dear life, hoping that whatever it is we are standing on or holding on will be strong enough to weather the impact. How many times have you braced yourself for the impact only to find that what you were holding onto was not nearly as strong as you thought that it might be?
I have thought a lot about the Serenity Prayer in recent days. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." How often do we attempt to change things that are completely out of our control? It's that "control" thing again, we desperately want to have it and when we realize that we can't have it, we fight and flail, kicking and screaming to try to gain control that we never had nor can we ever gain.
But, like I said, the sooner that we realize that control is not ours to be had, the more freedom we will gain. To be honest, a lot of my faith really comes from this place, the place where I begin to realize that I have no control over certain circumstances in my life. In fact, I have no control over many things in my life. I hit traffic on the highway and I have no control over it. A major storm interrupts my plans and I have no control over it. Disease withers and weakens those who I love and I have no control over it.
Here's where my faith comes in: I may not have control, but I know the One who does. It is not a sign of weakness, but a realization and acceptance of reality. I think about the disciples, riding their boat across the lake when a storm came upon them. They did their best to control the boat and keep it from sinking and finally, they gave up and woke Jesus who somehow managed to sleep through the whole thing at the back of the boat. He wakes up and treats that storm as if it's just an annoying little gnat, an inconvenience to his circumstances.
I'm certainly not saying that God is going to come in and take control every time our life seems as if it's spinning out of control, but if nothing else, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is there. When we climb up on the mountain, glimpsing all that we can, He is there. And more importantly, there will be a day when nothing will spiral out of control any longer.
In the meantime, I remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Attempting to take control of uncontrollable circumstances is a surefire way to begin that journey towards insanity, and I'm not really crazy about going there just yet. May I accept what I can't change, change what I can, discern the difference, and do my best to share the news with as many people as I can. After all, oftentimes those collisions that we experience aren't necessarily caused by us, they may be caused by someone else, losing control...or just flailing around actually living under the delusion that they actually had control to begin with.