The worn-out basketball was bouncing on the blacktop once again. It was a hot sunny day in Mill Valley. My friends and I were playing pickup basketball at Seminary. We were in our third game of the afternoon, and it was close! In a crucial play, the ball hit a player from the opposing team and went out of bounds. It was clear as day! But that player argued that the ball had hit my hand last.
I proceeded to get into a heated disagreement with my friend. Yes, we were at Seminary training to be full-time ministers and I was upset over one play in a meaningless basketball game. My blood was boiling because I knew that I had the correct call. It was an important play in this tight game.
But then I paused. I took a few seconds to get my head together. This was strange. Yes, it was a close and very competitive game, but I have never gotten upset over a bad call before. What was going on?
Well, let me share with you the context of what I had just been through. I had a concussion in a snowboarding accident a month prior. My anxiety and depression had become severe enough for the Seminary to dismiss me from enrollment. I was on track to graduate with my Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in 3 years, and now the rug had been pulled out from under me.
Basically, I had lost all control of my life up in California. I was away from my close friends, and family, I was no longer pursuing my M.Div., and I was still somewhat recovering from my concussion.
Back to the basketball game. I was acting out of character with a simple bad call on a play. Though the game was very competitive, it didn’t justify me getting so heated. So, what happened? Well, it seems that when I LOST control of one part of my life, I LOOKED to gain control in another part. I felt the need to compensate for what I had lost.
The definition of “CONTROL” - the power to influence or direct people's behavior or the
course of events.
It is a natural tendency for humans to want to be in control. It helps us to have the power to sway and influence situations to go the way we would like. It allows us to determine the outcome of the circumstances and future of our lives.
Though the human condition epitomizes the need for control, God calls the Christian to surrender. This means to relinquish the power that we desire to have over our lives. Luke writes an important statement that Jesus shared with His disciples and an interested crowd:
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and
take up their cross daily and follow me. -Luke 9:23 (NIV)
What does it mean to deny yourself? Jesus is saying that we must go against our natural tendency. To take up the cross means we expect suffering. It means to take ourselves out of the spotlight of our lives and put Jesus at the center.
Andy Stanley has a great way of summing this concept up. He says, “The essence of
following Jesus is self-denial, not self-improvement.”
Perhaps you have wrestled for extra control in your household. It may be that control is present in your workplace. Perhaps it’s a friendship that has become more about control than love. Maybe there is a desire to have more control in your family relationships.
Losing control is inevitable, but our response is up to us. Therefore, in this life we will surely “Lose and Look.” When we LOSE control, let us LOOK to Jesus. Let us avoid the panic of LOOKING for other places that we can gain more control. May we deny ourselves every single day, and may Jesus reign in our lives.