“Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable. I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s often wrong.”
–George Costanza – “The Opposite”, Seinfeld Episode 22, Season 5
If I’m truthful, I have to say that I’ve found this tendency to be true in my life more than I’d like to admit. As I pondered this reality I began to realize a bigger truth…
This is often the case for many people, not just me. It’s also true for entire groups and institutions. Rarely are we really in control. Rarely do events turn out the way we envision them. In fact, when we stop and think about it we begin to realize that we’re not really in control of anything. Yet we continue to function as if we can be.
Recently, I’ve seen this played out in a particularly peculiar way in my church.
As is so common in the Christian community today, my church struggles a bit financially. We make ends meet. But we also suffer from corporate worry about failing infrastructure and systems that we just don’t seem to have the means to care for. Sure, we could appeal to members to give more so we can pave the parking lot. But, it’s not a very sexy appeal is it? Let’s face it. If given a choice more people would toss in more money for the installation of a coffee bar than for a new furnace. Unless of course it’s the dead of winter and we can’t keep the building warm. Although…. Even then…. Folks might be inclined to just complain and not come. But if we had a coffee bar? And if the coffee was free!?! Yeah boy! Count me in!
So… my church could use some additional funding. We have infrastructure needs and expenses that we have to juggle to pay for. We could ask more from our members. But, the economy has been rough and some people really are giving all they can. Right? Besides, there’s the whole “what do we ask for” question that I posed above.
Okay. So I need to get back on topic.
The natural inclination in situations like this is to look at what we need to do to attract more members. More members = more money. More money = funding for projects. Funding for projects = bathroom repairs. What could be wrong with that?
Simple. It never works.
We’re like George. We instinctively work tirelessly to solve the problem faced by a lack of funds. When what we need to do is to fight our instincts and do the opposite.
Interestingly enough, there is biblical guidance that also suggests that we should fight our instincts. Heck, just look at the entire way that Jesus lived his life. Eye for an eye? No! Turn the other cheek. Fight against Caesar’s taxes? No! Give Caesar what is Caesar’s. The poorest are the richest. Give up your life to have life.
He taught us that all of life is paradox. It’s not what it seems to be. We have no control.
So how do we function in light of this realization? We DO faith! That wonderful yet completely misunderstood concept. Faith.
All my life people have told me that I should HAVE faith. That it’s good to HAVE faith. To BE faithful. I was taught to believe that faith was something that I could possess. And if I possessed enough of it, I’d be okay. Kinda like money. If ya got enough… what have ya got to worry about, right?
Of course we all know that even people with “enough” money still have problems. So, if you can’t have enough money…. can you have enough faith?
The problem is that faith isn’t something you possess. It’s something you DO. It’s an action. A state of mind. A state of being. It becomes you when you become it. It’s a philosophy of being, not an understanding. The same is true of control.
This life is not controllable by us. The most we can hope for is to react well. God set a miraculous chain of events in to motion when He began to create. We’re a part of that creation – not the creators. Sure, we can influence things. We have that power. But can we really control them? I think not. Nor should it be the point.
George Costanza stumbled on a great truth. Control is a myth. It’s an illusion. Sometimes, the best course of action is to ignore our desire to try and control things and learn how to live within the boundaries of the gifts our life gives us.