The following was given during our Lenten Dinner Church. No audio is available.
Scripture: Galatians 6:1-3
I have a confession to make. I am a control freak. I wasn’t always a control freak, I didn’t always have this addiction to eliminating all the uncertainty in my life, but as I got older and experienced some of the generic downsides to grown-up life (rent, underemployment, bad dates, an awareness of all the ways politicians act unethically, and so on), I began to self-medicate, and control was my drug of choice. It started innocently enough- quieting an anxious mind ruminating over the tasks of the following day with a to-do list. That worked for a while, then the to-do lists became time-stamped; they became daily schedules broken down to the hour.
When I was stood up on a date, I swore off dating for months, because if I couldn’t trust people to show up for dates that they themselves had planned, I thought, I just wasn’t going to go on any dates. That way I could never get stood up. That was my way of controlling the situation.
Often I’d find myself turning to planning as a way of calming anxiety. Job application rejected? I’d plan out my meals down to the ingredient for the next two weeks. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? I’d clean my room for comfort. Sometimes I still find it difficult to do work, or even relax at home if I know my bedroom is messy.
The more things happened that were out of my control, the more tightly I held onto the reigns in the other areas of my life to compensate and give me the fix of feeling in control that I needed.
The only thing I can control is myself, I thought, and so I did everything myself. I leaned into a fiercely independent streak that I’ve honed and nurtured from years of solo travel, from mistaking my shyness for introversion, from being single and using the narrative of independence as a coping mechanism, or a defense against loneliness. My name is Amy Norton, and I’m a control freak.
My sin is Pride. Pride that tells me I can have total control over my life and avoid upset if I just make enough lists. Pride that assumes I can do everything myself. Pride that somehow convinces me, despite my faith, despite my experiences of community and the stories I see of people coming together, that the only person I can truly depend on is myself. And that doesn’t leave any room for neighbor, or God.
My sin is closing myself off to allowing God to work in my life, of not trusting God to provide, be it through the murmurs of the Spirit that emerge when I allow myself to actually feel and explore and process my own anxiety about uncertainty, or through the neighbors who could help me if I just let them.
Assurance of Grace:
I got my second ever flu shot this year, and as a result, I now have a torn rotator cuff; it’s one of those rare reactions you hear about in the fine print. I thought I was going to find out yesterday, at my appointment with the orthopedist, whether or not I’d need surgery. Once I know that at least, I’ll be able to plan, to get used to what my life will look like months from now as I recover, I thought. Instead, the doctor gave me a cortisone shot and said that if I don’t show dramatic improvement in a month’s time, he’d order and MRI and see if surgery was indicated. So much for being able to calm my anxiety with planning. So much for knowing what to expect.
Maybe this is the chance to surrender and see how the spirit moves me, see what meaning I can make from this prolonged uncertainty that I’ve been dealt. I’m not sure I believe in fate, I’m not sure what I believe about the idea of divine intervention, but I’m beginning to think that this is an opportunity to loosen my grip on my own life a little bit, to let others answer their call to be my neighbors, to begin to acknowledge that it’s OK to not be in control all the time, because in those dark, ruminating moments of the night, God is with me.