I am moving quickly towards the ripe old age of 50. I am not afraid of 50, but I know that life is fleeting, and I have no control of time.
Also, my third child is likely going to leave for college in the next six weeks. Can you believe I will have three young adults in college at the same time? How in the world did that happen? It was not supposed to happen so quickly. There is no way I have enough money in the bank for this. It seems that I have lost control there, too.
My wife, Lynelle, and I had certain expectations for our lives by the time we were in our late 40s and early 50s, and, well, it just has not quite happened the way I suspected or maybe even hoped. These expectations were nothing major, but I cannot believe the lack of control I have over so many of my circumstances. Illness, bad back, death of parents … so many issues that I cannot control.
I have heard and read many things about midlife crises. I was actually wondering if I was in one. I have no desire to ditch my bride for a younger one, but a red convertible sure does sound fun.
I shared all that is going on with my mentor, David. His response was not as sensitive as I hoped. He suggested my problem was that I was a control freak. He said that I wanted to control my circumstances—how I age, how I relate to my kids, and even how things play out at work.
He was right. So, recognizing that I am a control freak and one that is in crisis, what do you suspect I decided to do about it?
I decided to try and take control of it.
I want to have it my way. All too often this happens at work, at home, at church, with my family, with my friends, and with the God of the universe. Unfortunately, God, being who He is, really likes us to do things on His terms—which, of course, goes totally against my desire for control.
Two weeks ago, the speaker at one of our family camps, Dan Brenton, senior pastor at a church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., shared the following example that has to do with our desire to control our lives and how we approach God:
The idea is that in a modern day monarchy like Great Britain, the Parliament writes up a bill and votes on it. Before it is passed, they allow the Queen to sign it, or “rubber stamp” it. Her signature is nothing more than a ritual. She is powerless to stop the bill or to accelerate its acceptance. In fact, she would be foolish to not sign it because that would expose her inability to enforce her will on the process.
In many ways, this is how we approach God. We come to Him with our predetermined plans and agenda and we ask Him to rubber stamp our desire. We do not allow Him to give input because He is the God of our convenience! But God reminds us that He is not a modern day Monarch!
Dan went on to say that the way God desires for this to work is He gives us a blank sheet of paper or contract with no agenda and no real predetermined plan and has a space for us to sign it at the bottom. He asks us to trust Him. Once we sign the blank contract, He then fills in the blank space with His perfect will.
The concept seems so easy to me. But I even want to control how God moves in my life, though God cannot be controlled!
So now I have this unsigned piece of paper—this contract between God and me.
Then on Wednesday, my wife and I went to the book store, and while she was looking for some stuff for the kids, I decided to take my ADHD mind on a tour of titles in the Christian living section.
While I was looking, one book jumped out at me: Surrender, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I opened the book, sat in a big comfy chair, and began to read. What do you think one of the examples is that DeMoss gives in the book regarding our need to surrender control to God? You guessed it, the blank contract example I mentioned earlier. It could have been coincidence (which by the way was once defined as “God’s hand in the midst of time”) or it could have been God really speaking to me.
I read the entire book, and it was wonderfully painful. It confirms what you already know. I am a control freak. But DeMoss suggests that we do something about our self-centered, self-absorbed condition. We should surrender control to God.
I am a man. I do not ask for directions, and I do not surrender. Both of these actions would have me giving up control—almost a slap at my manhood.
I’ve even written a new hymn, “I Surrender Almost All”:
I surrender almost all, I surrender almost all.
Almost all to Jesus I surrender, I surrender almost all.
Where are you in this issue of control? Is it time to surrender?
My goals and my desires are to finish re-reading Surrender and to do the projects in the book and to actually surrender. I want to become, “Mario, formerly known as a control freak.”
I want to sing the hymn “I Surrender All” and really mean it.
Mario Zandstra is president and CEO of Pine Cove Christian Camps, in Tyler, Texas.