Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Downpours, Ditches, and Self-Control

In my opinion there are very few things as conducive to writing as rain.  Rain has this ability to drown out all other sound without actually being loud.  You know what I mean?  It’s like nature’s white noise that fills the awkwardness of silence and overpowers the loudness of life.  It’s quite beautiful really, and yet I rarely stop to think about the majesty of it. 

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck in this ditch on the side of life’s road.  I’ve been so angry and discontent here in this ditch and I’ve found myself letting that anger make me bitter instead of making me zealous, and that’s a dangerous place for me. 

I’m fairly well acquainted with the emotion of anger.  It was the driving force in my life for a long time, giving me this feeling of chaotic control over my life. Sometimes I long to have that control back.  This gospel of grace, this messy spirituality, it’s a radically out of control life.

It’s funny to me when I think about it because, that person I used to be, that anger driven person, that’s the one people thought was out of control.  I got that a lot, “You’re out of control!”  or “You need to learn some self-control.”  But that was the problem, see, I was self-controlled.  My Self was in the driver’s seat and it demanded and whined and lashed out because that’s all Self knows how to do.  Self-control is so self-focused and makes me selfish. 

It’s confusing, I know, because we say it’s a fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.”  Our English language screws it up for us and makes us think that living life in the Spirit means that we have to be in control.  So we take off after Christ and our lives become messy and chaotic and we think, “Oh, I must have done something wrong, I must not be living in God’s will.” 

Imagine how the disciples must have felt as talmidim of a rabbi who led them to touch leppars.  Followers who lives were filled with life threatening storms, starving crowds, dead friends brought to life, and triumphant entry on the back of an ass.  These same followers experienced the devastation of betraying their friend, the terrifying calling to spread his message, and the unyielding loyalty to it that resulted in lives wrought with persecution and ending in martyrdom.  Do those sound like lives lived in control?  How often they must have wondered, “Is this really what God is like?”

For some reason we think God should make our lives easier and so we try to tame him.  We plan our sermons and lessons and then we try to fit God into them and call them inspired. We want God to fit within our plan; we live our lives self-controlled and beg him to join us in the blandness of it.

But God is uncontrollable.  He’s untameable.  He wasn’t created by us, he doesn’t answer to us, and he can’t be stopped by us.  Sometimes that’s really unsettling to know and then there are times when I find such peace in that knowledge because you know what, sometimes people suck.  Sometimes people who are supposed to speak God’s message get it wrong and leave his people feeling worn and oppressed.  Even when that happens… God is not shackled by them.  He runs free and wild in relentless pursuit of his people ready to ravish us with his love in the midst of our resistance to it. 

That’s the devastating wonder of following Jesus; that we are recklessly out of control.  It’s a terrifying and comforting truth as it relieves us from having to have it all together all the time but also requires us to live lives entrenched in faith. 

Then there are times, when we find faith frustratingly difficult, and we end up in these ditches. 

And God sends the rain.

Unstoppable, unmanageable, out of control rain, that drenches us in Him.  Rain that silences the noise of our lives with its overpowering pitter patter of God’s love song to us.  A downpour that continues until our lives are flooded with who he is and we are lifted up out of our ditches and swept away in the unpredictable current of life with him. 

May you be encouraged by the knowledge that God is in the midst of the chaos; that he calls us to a life passionately out of control.  May you find comfort in the awkward freedom of life without a plan.  And may you be flooded with the downpour of Jesus when you’re stuck in your ditch.