I thought I was in control again.
Every so often, God, you wake me up with something providential or remind me of your sovereignty in your Word, and it snaps me back to reality that you hold the galaxies and the electrons in orbit. But in between those moments of divine clarity, I grow amnesic towards your might, and addicted to my planning and forecasting and evaluating to ensure things work out the way I think they should go.
I recently (as in 2 weeks ago) drove a moving van across the country back to the West Side of Chi with my carefully laid out plans to move into the neighborhood and begin to love people with the love of Jesus. I set some pretty fail-safe plans, too. The emergency box for all the must-have items like credit cards and screwdrivers, the trip outlined to ensure the least amount of gas mileage, communication with friends to ensure a swift move-in, etc.
It’s not until my plans fail that I realize how God-shadowing they have become to me.
The drive across the country in the 26-ft moving van was flawless. And then after entering the city, my carefully laid out plans unraveled according to God’s kind intention. After the third or fourth example of my not being in control occurred, I decided to keep a log.
- Felt pretty proud of myself for getting the truck 14 hours to Chi and through the night without anyone breaking in to steal our stuff. Went to open the door to unload the next day, and couldn’t find the key to the padlock. After a frantic search, discovered that we had left the key three states away at our previous day’s stop.
- We rolled into the city on a semi-nice day. We awoke the next morning ready to unload, and found 6 inches of snow on the ground in late March and our large winter coats, boots, and hats were packed in boxes.
- Yes, I proceeded to scrape a parked car with the moving van when backing down an alley, and had to file a claim with the owner’s insurance company.
- After securing everything in the apartment (6 hours of traveling up and down stairs to the 3rd floor with boxes and furniture), and returning the moving van to a wide parking space on the street, I discovered that our set of keys would in fact not allow us to re-enter the apartment. We were locked out, the landlord was on vacation, the realty agency was closed, and my feet were freezing wet from carrying furniture through the snow.
- Spent a week unpacking, fixing up, etc. and desperately wanting to get out into the neighborhood. On my first day out, I rode my bike to the local library thinking I was finally starting to get somewhere, and hit a curb, destroying my front tire.
- Fixed the bike and planned to head into the neighborhood the next day, and woke up to rain.
I can’t read this list without laughing. Hopefully you’re laughing too, particularly if you have a habit of wanting to be in control and believing you’ve got your life by the reins. On that most recent morning when I woke up to the rain, my plans crushed yet again, God brought me to this passage as I was spending time in his Word.
And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
I took a look back at my log of failed attempts at “getting things done.” God was working mysteriously in spite of me.
As a result of all my failed plans, in a matter of a week, I was able to meet a local locksmith who cut the truck lock off prior to my friends arriving to help unload; I met the owner of the car I dinged as well as the local police officers on my beat when we filed the police report; I struck up a good relationship with fellow tenants in my building as well as our landlord in order to work out the lock-out situation; I met a guy while walking my single-wheel bike who shared part of his life story with me; I discovered a local bike shop that puts all of its proceeds for repairs and sales towards funding good causes. And most importantly, while hanging out at a park in the rain, wondering what God was up to, he brought a lone teenager into my path who was in very real need of prayer due to some concerning life circumstances. I was able, due to no plan of my own, to pray with him and encourage him that God is in control.
God will surely grow his kingdom with or without my plans and attempts to be in control.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:5-6
This is not a call for throwing plans out the window and flying by the seat of your pants. It’s just a wake up for me once again to the beauty of sovereignty, the security of God’s good providence, and a reminder that my plans are finite in the hands of a gracious Father who can create all things from nothing.
I suppose I should expect the unexpected from the sovereign Lord who brought about the redemption of my soul by means of a least-expected crucified Savior. The good news is that I’m not in control and you aren’t either. Dead men like me have been brought back to life through a third day turnaround that no one could forecast. Resurrection is the penultimate unplanned outcome.
Father, create in me a readiness to rest while you work, to be steady in my trust in you, and to doubt my efforts instead of your own. Build your church in spite of me. Lead me to hold my plans with an open hand, and to cling to your surety with a tight grip.
I know you are in control always.