Monday, February 22, 2016

The Illusion of Control

I had it all planned out.  We were about to leave for our annual spring break service trip, so I made sure to take a couple of days off before to be fully rested for the trip, make sure that all the logistics were covered, and all the teaching was prepared to go.  It was a good plan.  I controlled my environment to make the most of my time off.  Until my son came down with croup.

If you don't know what croup is, it's essentially a bad cold that keeps you from breathing really well.  It can sound almost like your child is barking like a dog, rather than coughing.  Shane was so young at the time that with each attempted breath he would get more scared which would negatively impact his breathing and result in coughing even more.  It was a massive snowball effect.

When we got to the ER, they were able to treat him with vapors, but he refused to sleep when they brought in a crib.  The only way he would sleep is if they could let him sleep on his Mommy.  So Heather and I stayed in the hospital, neither of us sleeping well with our sick child laying on her.  And while I was able to get more sleep than Heather (the true champ of the night, which is usual), I was running on about two hours due to less than ideal accommodations.  And of course, the next day I left for our spring break trip, asking God, "why wouldn't you let me get more sleep?"

It's funny now, but one of the things I remember thinking back then was, "I don't get it.  I planned this perfectly.  How could my plan have gotten so messed up so that I'm so tired?"  There are a number of right answers here, but one in particular should be obvious: it was my plan.

Proverbs 16 addresses the plans of men three times:

"The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."
(v. 1)

"Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established."
(v. 3)

"The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps."
(v. 9)

The author is clear, we can plan whatever we want, whenever we want, and however we want.  However, we don't have the final say.  Notice how the author notes in verses 1 and 9 that the Lord answers and establishes.  So while we can plan and dream, God is the one who ultimately makes things happen.  That's why verse 3 is so helpful: "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established."  If our ultimate plan is to bring glory to God, then however God takes us there, it will be established.  He calls us to trust Him with our plans, not to trust that our plans will work out.  

This is helpful when we pray for God to work.  A friend of mine, one of our student leaders, was sharing how he felt like God wasn't working.  This was in the midst of our fellowship nearly doubling in size within the past year, our core members continually growing in biblical maturity, and the student leaders owning way more than they ever had in the past.  I racked my brain wondering how this student, my friend, could think God wasn't at work.  Then it hit me: it wasn't that he didn't see God at work.  It was that He didn't see God working the way he wanted Him too. 

Aren't we all the same way?  We want to control our circumstances, we think our plans are the best, and yet when we step outside of ourselves, we see God's broader plan?  

When Shane had contracted croup, I had been praying to be more desperate for the Lord.  How better to be desperate than to be sleep-deprived going into a week-long service trip!  I wanted to feel desperate in my way, but God chose instead to find a much more effective way to do it instead!  And boy, did it help!  

We long for control.  We think it's what will get us what we want.  However, when we hold our faith-filled plans with an open hand, God always does what is best.  Even if some of our plans don't come to fruition, He is always establishing better plans in lieu of them.  In His mind, our relationship with Him, and the expansion of His Kingdom, are what He wants our plans to be.  And those plans, you can be assured, He will establish.