Control

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Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plansProverbs 16:3

I started cleaning out my garage this weekend. I don’t mean the just rearrange the junk into neater piles and sweep the floor type of clean. I’m talking take down all the nasty shelves, peg boards, and cabinets. Take two truckloads to a dumpster and one to Goodwill. Fix the holes in the drywall. Repaint. Put together two new shelving units. Reorganize. Bring order to chaos.

Of course, in my quirky 1970s house there are plenty of places for the leftovers of good intentions and the remnants of nostalgia to hide. So there’s a domino effect to the cleaning and a new hierarchy of preservation to establish. Raising the expectations on the garage has and will create a trickle down to the other places of potential disorder. Are the stadium seats even worthy of the garage now?

This is a question that a month ago I would have considered to be on par with alphabetizing the spices in my kitchen or organizing my shirts by color.

But after spending eight days on the 10th floor of Eskenazi Hospital, where I offered up 39 vials of blood and spinal fluid to be sent to labs across the country, and subjected myself to three separate catheterizations, three hours worth of MRIs, three CT scans, one EMG, two EKGs, one three-hour angiogram, and two old-school x-rays for good measure, I was tired of following someone else’s orders.

I needed to control something in my life.

At some micro level, I needed to bring some order and structure to the chaos and uncertainty of my life. You don’t need a degree in psychology or hours of therapy to see that there’s something going on beneath the surface here.

Let’s talk about trust and control for a minute. 

At the conceptual level, theologians of all stripes have been debating the questions around trust and control since the Garden. Is God really good? Is God really in control? What is my responsibility? Do my choices really matter? If God is good and in control, then why is everything so messed up?

Proverbs leans into this tension at the ground level of our everyday experience. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” In other words, there’s a “do” part where you and I must take responsibility, yet God is the one who has ultimate responsibility for “establishing” our plans.

How do we live in this tension?

I’m not talking about the abstract here. Let’s set aside some of the macro-level, philosophical questions for a minute. You know, the classic dilemma question, “If God is all good and all powerful, then why would he allow evil to happen?”

I’m not afraid to lean into that question. There’s a solid Biblical response and we can go there off-line if you need some help wrestling with that one. We can think with God together if you’d like. He can handle our toughest questions.

Let’s go back to the ground—and my garage cleaning project. What you hold on to has a way of revealing what you value from the past and what you are planning for the future. I actually opened every storage container that I owned. I found old playbooks from my coaching days, mixed in with random photos and high school ceramics projects made by my kids. I found leftover plumbing parts and electrical parts and drywall parts. Was it really worth holding on to all these parts, with the hope of saving four or five bucks? Especially when you live six minutes from Menards.

I also found three full storage bins full of supplies for what I thought would be an annual summer family trip to McCormick’s Creek State Park. All of our cooking and cleaning supplies were boxed up and ready to go—left untouched since our last trip sixteen years ago. I remember thinking, “Why would we ever go anywhere else?” What more could our kids want than hiking in a state park, swimming in the pool, and hanging out with their family?”

You see, we make plans and they seem good and right at the time. 

But sometimes God has other plans. Sometimes God works to “establish” plans in ways that we can’t foresee.  I won’t pretend that I understand how all that works.

But I do know this. God cares about the details. He cares about houses and vacations. That summer fifteen years ago after we moved into our house, I had a tumor and two feet of my small intestines removed and got blasted with chemo and immunotherapy.

That wasn’t in my plan. We didn’t go to McCormick’s Creek. But we did find a way to upgrade our vacation. Instead of throwing all of our containers and bikes in the van, we hopped on a plane and went to Fort Meyers Beach. I can still remember running on the beach with my daughter, feeling free from the cancer that was destroying me, but also weak from the chemo that was giving me a fighting chance to be a grandpa one day.

So how do you live in the tension? 

Sometimes you stop overthinking your plans. Sometimes you let go of what you thought you had control over.

Sometimes you just clean out your garage and throw away your boxes—and you trust the One who gave up his own control for you.

Prayer

God give me the humility to hold my plans with an open hand and the eyes to see and the strength to do your plan.

For More

Read Proverbs 16