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The Idol of Control
Last week, on April 22nd, I read the devotion, “Listen to Me Continually,” by Sarah Young (Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers, 2004).
Did you happen to read it, too?
As you may know, Sarah determined a number of years ago to listen to God with pen in hand and write down whatever she believed he was saying to her. Those meditative moments became this book.
God’s messages through Sarah often speak timely challenges to me. Last Thursday was no exception.
First, a bit of background.
As I write this, my to-do list is a bit long, even though I’m retired. (To those who are still employed or still have children at home under your charge, that sounds ridiculous, I know. But let me tell you, retirement does not change how busy you are, just what you are busy doing.)
Not only is that list of tasks long, but I have a strong desire to do a thorough job on each item. After all,
(“If a task is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”)
Except that goal can easily lead to perfectionism, which I do have to fight against.
So here is what Sarah sensed Jesus telling her for April 22nd:
When Jesus died, he set us free. That includes freedom from compulsive planning.
And that’s exactly what I have been doing: figuring out when I could accomplish certain jobs, deciding whether a few tasks could be postponed, wondering if I’d be able to accomplish everything–on time.
Jesus continued; Sarah wrote more:
When we’re distracted by a whirlwind of thoughts, we cannot hear his voice.
Oh, Lord, that is so true. Sometimes my thoughts are a stress-inducing jumble of “Stay on task! Don’t waste a minute! Don’t forget that! Do this first!” No wonder I feel overwhelmed.
Then Jesus and Sarah hit me between the eyes:
“A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control.”
Oh, my. I never thought of planning as a possible idol, something excessively adored.
But there is truth in that idea. I do prefer to be in control, to feel competent in handling my responsibilities, to know that everything will be accomplished efficiently, competently, and in a timely manner.
That sounds an awful lot like pride, doesn’t it.
I don’t think the problem lies in the planning, as if it’s a sin to make a to-do list.
The sin is in the attitude. I need to ask myself: Is my planning an effort toward making an impression? Rooting for compliments? Looking for a pat on the back? I have to be honest. Sometimes, yes.
Jesus reminded me (through Sarah) that my attention needs to be on him, not on the best ways to complete a task list. I need to listen to him, not the voices telling me to hurry to do this; scurry to do that.
And what will be the result? Stress will melt away, and I’ll enjoy the peaceful, God-enhanced, abundant life he’s promised. I’ll be more useful to him and compliant to his will instead of mine.
That sounds much more satisfying and enjoyable, doesn’t it.
* * * * * * * * * *
Heavenly Father, I am so sorry that I’ve allowed a preoccupation with planning to become an idol. Help me to hold very loosely the plans I make, in order to embrace the interruptions and changes ordained by you. Teach me also to release control of the to-do list to you. Amen.
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