I have always been a lead breaker. A lefty, my writing protocol is unorthodox, and I have a bad habit of holding writing utensils too tightly and pushing down hard. Mechanical pencils are impossible and even ballpoint pens sometimes crack in two, sending parts into the air.
Some of my classmates used to groan when our teacher insisted we bring two #2 pencils. I worried two might not be enough. More than once I did indeed break them both, and only under careful surveillance was allowed to trek to the back of the room where a hand cranked pencil sharpener was screwed on a door frame.
My response to fear and doubt also tests this two pencil minimum. I press against my circumstances in a feeble attempt to maintain control. And when I find I am no longer in control of the things that threaten me, I try to proclaim power over other less relevant forces.
Several years ago the church I serve experienced a fire that decimated its facility. The months that followed were filled with nightly meetings, serious challenges and personal disappointments. More than once, I teetered on the cliff of despair. One afternoon I was driving to the hospital to see a church member when I experienced heaviness in my chest and shooting pains in my jaw. Within a few hours I was in the emergency room under observation for a heart attack.
My heart was fine. But I wasn’t. It was time for a total lifestyle makeover. The only problem was, I was a slave to our recovery process, and any extra energy was quickly eaten up by the next emergency.
So I found something to control. I had always exercised regularly, but I decided to ramp things up. I started eating like a mouse and running like a fool. In a matter of weeks I had lost nearly thirty pounds and was running seven miles a day, seven days a week.
Honestly, it felt wonderful to lose the weight, and I placed impressively at a local 5K race, if I must say so myself. But one night at a church elder’s meeting, as I was standing with the men who were faithfully walking with me through our trial, my body failed me. We had formed a circle for our closing prayer and as my hands started to slip from the hands of the elders on either side, I collapsed in a chair at the table.
A cookie and a soft drink brought me back, but clearly, the things I was using to simulate control had, just like everything else in my life, found a way to control me. That’s when I learned an important lesson about control: the harder we press to bring our lives under control, the closer we come to breaking.
Have you ever substituted something you can control for something you can’t? How did this work out for you?
Dear God, forgive me for my delusion of control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.