During the 48 hours at our spiritual retreat this June, we were meant to disconnect completely from technology. But I was headed out to walk one morning, and I wanted to check the weather.
No matter that I’d checked it prior to arriving. What if it changed? What if the afternoon rain suddenly came in the morning? I didn’t want to be caught off guard.
In other words, I didn’t want to be out of control.
The Subtle Ways We Control
There was a time, not long ago, when I wouldn’t have been able to check the weather before going outside. What would I have done then? Maybe get caught in the rain. Maybe have been underdressed. Or overdressed.
But now all that’s over. That little weather app on my phone gives me a small measure of control over my life I didn’t have before. I can avoid looking foolish or being uncomfortable. Thanks, weather app!
Throughout those 48 hours of retreat, I saw more and more how control plays out in subtle ways in my life.
When I couldn’t look up a quote or person someone mentioned, I hated that I couldn’t control my ignorance.
If a book title I’d like to buy came up, I couldn’t exercise the agency to buy it on my time.
When our group was invited to sit in silence after sharing, I couldn’t manage their image of me by responding in an empathetic way.
That I like to control life is not a surprise to me. Remember the Little Miss books? I used to joke that mine would be called “Little Miss Control Freak.”
Starting to Let Go of Control
But God’s been working on me. Slowly prying my fingers off areas of my life, inviting me to relinquish my grip and let Him be God. Reminding me that I don’t really control what I think I do. As Anne Lamott says,
“It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
So waking up to this still pervasive itch to control was a bit disappointing. Haven’t I grown out of this by now? But as I’ve said before, we’re all recovering from something.
And this: this felt a bit like God just found my secret stash of control in a back cupboard.
But in true God fashion, He opened that cupboard on the retreat with kindness and compassion, gentleness and patience. He opened it because He wants me to be free. That’s always why He shows us our sin. His kindness leads to repentance.
The desire to control is often what fuels anxious thoughts. Perhaps something in us realizes that as much as we would like to be the ones in charge, we know we aren’t. The distance between desire and reality is bound to cause fear.
The Freedom in Surrender
That is unless we surrender. Raise the white flag. Admit that despite our best efforts, we are not enough.
Surrender means a willingness to be caught in moments of foolishness. Ignorance. Discomfort.
But it also means freedom.We’re freed from being the rulers of our little kingdoms, which, as I’ve said before, we’re terrible at. There’s something in surrender that allows us to breathe again and relinquish the burden of holding things together. We’re free to trust in the God who is capable.
And I’m finding that’s the key to surrender: resting in the fact that while I am wildly out of control of the world, God is not. We can rest in His wisdom, His power, and His love. In other words: God knows what is best for us, He can do what is best for us, and He always wants what is best for us.
The more we sit in those truths, the more our fingers relax. Our grip opens and whatever we hold so tightly to-our reputations, our security, our agency over life-can be released into His care. If we can’t believe in His ability to care for us, we will never open our hands.
The word “surrender” has become a breath prayer, one I say on my exhale when I sit in silence and all the cares of the world come flooding at me. When the temptation is to grab each one and do what I in my small power can do, He reminds me to keep my hands open, palms up, to both give and receive.