In a recent sermon, our pastor mentioned something that’s really important for spiritual growth: letting go.
Specifically, letting go of a certain false sense of responsibility: the sense that it all depends on me, or that I can control my world. Really, I can’t control much; I can barely control myself! It’s the Lord who controls heaven and earth; he is God and I’m not.
It’s remarkably freeing to know this, because if I think it all depends upon me, I’ll be a prisoner of everything around me. So for example if I think I can and should control how things go at work, I’ll constantly manipulate people; I’ll “need” them to do things my way, see things the way I see them, and so on.
This is an awful way to be if I’m insisting things be done my way, but even if my objectives are the “right” ones (that we not waste the company’s money for example) it can still be toxic: when things don’t go well (shareholders’ money goes to buying the wrong thing, or doomed projects get started) I’ll be second-guessing myself. “Maybe if I’d made a stronger case…” and similar thoughts can rattle around in my head, keep me up at night, and distract me from being truly present with my loved ones.
What if my objectives are not only the “right” ones but eternal ones? I want all people at our church to feel ownership for the activities they’re involved in; nobody should feel useless or disempowered. This is a great desire, but what happens if someone says a discouraging word? Might I start second-guessing myself then? “I should have coached this person more” or “Maybe if I had affirmed that person more, or more wisely” or “If only I had…” — this kind of nonsense results from the belief that I’m in control, or that l even could control things.
So here’s the truth: Even if my motives are 100% pure (hey, it could happen someday!), my wisdom is complete and my technique is perfect, people won’t necessarily do what I want them to do. And since I’m full of flaws myself it’s mathematically obvious: I can’t control things.
Why then do these things still bother me? Why do I vainly try to control stuff? And what can I do about it? Here’s what I think: I need to meditate upon God’s great care for me, and cast my anxiety upon him, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:6-7.
Easier to say than to do, right? Yes it is.