That Matthew is a funny guy. I mean, that chapter title alone kills.
He opens the chapter describing his decades long feud with feathered fowl by comparing it to Chief Brody's feud with a certain Great White shark. This comedic backdrop is the opening for our next in depth look at ourselves.
Hello, My Name is Control-Freak
I don't know about you, but when I read those words, I felt a little dip in my stomach. I've come a long way from the old days where I would literally twitch if things weren't done the way I thought they should be. I grew up in a home where being precise was the difference between a beating for not getting things “just right” OR sometimes IF the mood was right, the beneficiary of unwarranted praise. Usually though, there was absolutely no response for doing what it was deemed we were supposed to do. Rarely were we able to complete whatever task was assigned to the imagined perfection that was desired. As a result, it took years of patience and understanding from my amazing husband to unravel my particular brand of cray.
Matthew admits that HE is a control-freak too. (I can't imagine his childhood was in any way similar to mine, lol) He became allergic to unwanted detours, he wanted to go where he wanted to go and arrive when he is supposed to arrive. (I mean, not really bad goals) Once there he wants things to go as they have been CAREFULLY planned. He admits this drives his wife a little nuts. I can tell you that my need to control such trivial things as to how smooth the top of the butter was or which DIRECTION my husband wiped the counter drove my spouse more than a little nuts. Thankfully, he was able to help me quickly (relatively) unwind out of that craziness.
BUT how about you?
Because we control freaks? We be s-l-o-w learners.
Here's the thing though.
Unexpected changes to our carefully laid out plans are not ALWAYS a bad thing. The problem is, that there is that unknown element introduced into the equation and THAT'S what we don't like. We WANT to know what's coming. If we could look into a crystal ball and KNOW that we were about to be fired then we could prepare for the lean times that are sure to follow while we are between jobs or we could have possibly already had another job lined up IF we knew what was coming.
Like the weather though, life is just unpredictable.
Matthew introduces us to his friend whose lifelong dream was to be a weatherman. He loved to study the patterns and to predict what the weather would be. Matthew asked his friend if people ever got angry when the forecasts were wrong. Ya'll know the answer to that. But what surprised me was the people who got angry when the forecast was right!! His friend recently changed professions and is now in real estate and when Matthew asked him if he missed reporting the weather his friend responded with this: "I don't miss it like I thought I would. For a long time I was studying the weather because it was my job, but now I love it again like I did when I was a kid." His friends response got Matthew thinking. Since it was no longer his friends job to predict the weather, he was off the hook.
SO ARE WE.
Matthew points out that the One Who decides where lightening will strike and how much rain will fall is the SAME One Who controls YOUR life and this world we live in. Those things that catch us off guard? Yeah, He knew about them.
Psalm 147:5 says this, "Great is our [majestic and mighty] Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is inexhaustible [infinite, boundless]."
Acknowledging that God IS all knowing and in control SHOULD make it pretty easy for us to step back and realize that WE are NOT. But OH, how we still like to engage in this epic tug-o-war between control and surrender for far too much of our Christian lives.
Matthew has this great quote, someone once said, "I'm not really a control-freak...can I show you the RIGHT way to do that?"
That quote reminds me of what James said in chapter 4:1. "What leads to [the unending] quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your bodily members [fighting for control over you]?'
Think about all the division in the body, in our families and then re-read that verse.
God's got ALL of that. He's in control of it all. NOT US.
Control vs. Chaos
The opposite of Control is Chaos. We worry chaos will break out if our carefully laid plans are not followed. When we surrender our control to an all-knowing and all-powerful God chaos will not break out because chaos is what happens when no one is in control. Think about it: This is the same God who calmed the winds and waves with a whisper. (Psalm 107:29) When we forget those calm waters and hushed winds and again try to wrest control away from Him and rely on our own abilities chaos is there waiting to break out into our lives. It confuses us and drags us away from our goals. As a Christ follower YOU and I (and Matthew) can leave the reins in the hands of the One Who calmed the wind and rain and rest in the knowledge that He is not a God of chaos, but of order. Isaiah 45 tells us that He specifically made this place, the world WE live in TO BE lived in, not to be this vast empty place of chaos. Check out what Isaiah says:
"For the Lord, Who created the heavens, (He is God, Who formed the earth and made it; He established it and did not create it to be a wasteland, but fromed it to be inhabited, says this, I AM the Lord, and there is no one else."
There is no one else. He's got this. He's got YOU...He's Got ME, and He's got Matthew.
Hello, My Name is Surrender
When my son was thirteen years old, some friends were over playing and one of the boys had brought over a bike ramp. The kids were all taking turns bunny-hopping over the ramp while I made phone calls inside to raise funds for our Pastor and his family for an upcoming trip the church was going to bless them with. My husband had left for work only moments before when my daughter, Rebekah, came running into the house. “Mom!" she yelled, “Trent fell off the ramp!" I threw the phone down and ran out to the front yard to find my son lying face down in the grass, seemingly unconscious, and my oldest daughter trying to turn him over. Rebekah raced back into the house to grab a cordless phone so that I could dial 911, but because I had thrown the corded phone I could not get an outside line.
TIME STOOD STILL
Panicking, I looked down at my son, now laying on his side, eyes open and unseeing. He began to utter deep guttural noises from the back of his throat, and I realized he must be having a seizure. Even as I thought it, I saw his hands curl up into claws. Tears streaming down my face and still in a panic, I kept jabbing 911 on the cordless (by now my daughter had run back in and placed the corded phone back in its cradle and I was able to get an outside line). In what seemed like minutes, two police cars and a fire truck arrived on the scene and placed my son on a back board and I was told to follow them in my van. I barely remember any of the other children around me. Somehow a close friend of mine arrived at the house and, at her insistence, my husband was called to return home from work (I kept insisting everything was fine, I had this under control). Then, I got into my van to follow the ambulance and lost my entire mind. I sat there crying and imagining every worst case scenario. The feeling that my son would be in a vegetative state or that he would die either on the way to the hospital or shortly after was so strong as I sat there waiting for the go ahead from the ambulance techs. With tears streaming down my face, my Mr. Mac knocked on my window and asked me to roll it down. I ignored him and dried my tears with the back of my hand and stared straight ahead. Mr. Mac was nothing if he wasn’t persistent. The tears were still slowly leaking down my cheeks when he knocked again. I unrolled the window this time and blankly stared at him. He said, "Give me your hand." I obeyed. He said,”You know Who holds that child in the palm of His hand. Now I do not want to see you shed another tear over this boy. God is in control. I love you." With that he planted a kiss on my cheeks and off he went marching down the drive way. I could feel the determination each time his foot met the pavement. Moments later I put the van in gear and followed the ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, I was transformed. People who saw me thought I was drugged or in shock, but it was truly that peace that passes understanding. We were not out of the woods for many weeks, but my son, who is almost thirty now, has no ill effects from his very near brush with death. PRAISE the LORD.
Matthew says when foundation-shaking, heart-breaking trials blind side us, or when those little daily annoying interruptions disrupt our plans four things happen:
We get a WAKE UP CALL
Suddenly we realize that WE can't fix the situation we find ourselves in. We are reminded that we are really NOT in control and we don't like it. These trials are designed to leave us helpless and remind us what Jesus meant when He said, "...apart from me you can do nothing" John 15:5
We get a BREAK UP CALL
For Matthew, it was the potential loss of his upcoming career. For me, it was the potential loss of my child. What would I do if my child was forever altered? Would I still love God if my child died? I answered yes in those furtive moments I breathed out my prayers as I watched them cut his clothes off. Proverbs 16:9 says, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps"
WE get a SHAKE UP CALL
These are the things we are not expecting in our carefully planned days, weeks, months and years. How do YOU respond when you are shaken up. A good verse to memorize is Psalm 62:6 "HE alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken." When the thing you planned doesn't go the way you THINK it should remember that there is a bigger picture being painted by the Masters brush. Settle in, it IS masterpiece after all.
We get a TAKE UP CALL
When our plans are changed we are forced to look at things from a different perspective. When we look upon those unplanned moments with excitement (i.e. how will God work in this situation) rather than (Oh NO! I will be late, or there will not be enough of THIS dinner, think loaves and fishes) Remember what Isaiah says, "No ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like YOU, Who works for those who WAIT for HIM."
Matthew ended up with a scar that reminds him to give up control to the One who is really in control. My son too has a really nasty scar. We were told he had the worst pediatric break a kid his age could have (his growth plates were broken). He had seventeen pins and three plates and to this day he still has three pins in his arm. Most children who experience a break like his are never able to straighten their arm again. Trent can straighten his arm about 85%. Most kids who suffer a break like Trent did end up with a shriveled forearm that has no strength, leaving their forearm useless. Most people don't even realize Trent has an old injury, it’s that unnoticeable. He couldn't play sports because of the Grand Mall seizure he suffered that day. He couldn't risk another injury to his head, but today he is happy and whole. I didn't shed any more tears for that boy that day. Just the day he left home to make his way in the mean old world. (couldn’t control that either lol) But even in that, I'm trusting God to do what He's best at. What He's promised for each of my children, because He told me so in Jeremiah 29:11
"'For I know the plans and thoughts I have for you,' says the Lord, 'plans for peace and well-being, and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Here are your questions to answer during your own quiet time:
1) On a scale of 1-10 how much of a control freak are you? What does your need for control say about your trust in God?
2) How has God used unwanted changes of plans to give you a wake-up call? A shake-up call? a take up call?
3) Read Jeremiah 29:11 You've probable read it a hundred times (maybe not) but do you BELIEVE IT. Especially when the future looks bleak from YOUR point of view.
Finally, Francesca Battistelli wrote the perfect ballad for this chapter, enjoy! XOXO