Giving up on Control

Luke 12:13-21

And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store all my crops?’

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Kristy Humphreys
Tacoma, WA

I don’t own a fitbit, or any other kind of smart watch. I have nothing to monitor my heart rate, how well I sleep, or how many steps I take in a day. However, I have often fantasized about a device that would track all the times that I have to bend over and pick up something off the floor at home. Legos, cheerios, socks, clumps of playdough, Legos, marbles, stuffed animals, and more Legos. I myself am a pretty tidy person by nature, but I live with three other humans that don’t share my dedication to “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

While I like to jokingly (and sometimes not so jokingly) blame my family for the endless onslaught of things to put away, I think the reality is that this is a problem born out of abundance. I’m always putting away my kids’ toys because they have dozens of toys to take out. Also, if I’m honest, it’s a problem of control. I spend countless hours tidying and organizing, telling myself I’ll be able to relax better if the work is done first. If I can get the house just so, then I’ll be able to be fully present with my family, or I’ll really be able to pray and meditate without distraction.

A Rich Fool

In this week’s text, the Rich Fool thinks he can control and manage his life into a state of blissful completion. His land has been productive, and he has more than he knows what to do with. All he needs is a strategy, and he’ll have it made. “I know! I’ll just build bigger barns! Then I can relax and I’ll be happy.”

But it never, ever works. There is always more mess. There is always the next crisis. What happens when his new barns need repairs? What about next year when the new harvest comes? His plans (and mine) are imperfect and temporary at best.

I don’t think the problem is the abundance itself. It’s how the abundance becomes a distraction. It’s how it makes us believe that we can actually control anything. It keeps us focused on managing our lives instead of being present to the work of the Spirit.

And it doesn’t have to be stuff. Maybe it’s an abundance of opportunities. Or an abundance of problems in other people’s lives that we think only we can fix. Whatever it is, the truth is we will never be able to coordinate away the distractions in life. There is no perfect solution where we can just kick back, relax, eat, drink, and be merry. The control is an illusion, and to let go takes intention.

To me, this is great news! The acceptance of the futility of my scheming is incredibly freeing. It gives me space to breathe so I can listen to the leading of the Spirit and pay attention to how She is moving in the people around me. Unfortunately, I know this is a realization I’m likely to forget as soon as I get home and see a mountain of tasks waiting to get done. For now, I’m praying it’s a realization I can have over and over again, chipping away bit by bit at my own control, letting me lean further in and closer to God.