Giving Up... Control

Lent Series ButtonWhen I was in 5th grade, I brought the Chronicles of Narnia series with me on a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. Lucy, Edmund, Peter, Susan, and Eustace were my companions as the South Dakota landscape traveled through my car window, and the sounds of New Kids on the Block traveled into my ears from my Walkman.

I read and reread the series many times in my childhood, adolescence, and even my adulthood. Their bindings are worn and falling apart from the years of keeping me company.

I have been on a journey this year of learning how to BE, my One Word 365. The way this word is embedding itself into my life and soul has been more difficult and more beautiful than I ever imagined. I have searched for metaphors and comparisons to describe it, and have come up short.

Until a friend compared me to Eustace.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace makes a choice that leads to him becoming a dragon. He had a bracelet on at the time, which is too small for his thick dragon arms. The arm ring cuts deep into his skin, and gets more and more painful over time.

Eustace is miserable. He was never meant to be a dragon.

One night, Aslan, the Lion, the Creator and Savior and Lover of Narnia, finds Eustace sitting in his pain. And leads him to a well, a clear and beautiful bath, which he knew could heal him.

But Eustace couldn’t get in the pool until he got his dragon skin off.

He scratched and some scales came off, then he scratched again and a whole later came off, then he scratched again and another fell to the ground. But it was never enough.

Eustace tried and tried and tried, but he couldn’t take off his dragon skin on his own.

If he wanted to become himself again, he needed help.

He needed Aslan.

“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…

He peeled the beastly stuff right off- just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me- I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on- and threw me into the water.”

This is the picture of the painful grace of my life right now. My heart is sore from the merciful peeling God has been doing to my heart. But the sting is absolutely and completely worth it.

I have always been an achiever. So for years I have been trying hard to be different. Striving to be authentic. Working to be vulnerable.

I know these characteristics are important. And I really, really want them to be true of me.

So I have been scratching and pulling and working to peel back the layers and find my true self underneath.

But the solution isn’t to try harder. The solution is to give up.

I needed to learn to give up control.

Only Aslan has the power to clear the dragon skin from my heart. But it is so so scary, to lay down, back to the ground, in full trust of whatever He needs to do to make that happen.

But I am learning to give up my fear, give up my control, and lean into the trust that my God loves me, my God is with me, and my God is leading me to the wellspring of healing.

Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

On Lent, Vacation, and Humility

  airplane wingLent arrived the day I left on vacation.


I boarded a plane headed south to warmer temperatures, and noticed a stewardess with ashes still on her forehead from an earlier service. As she wore her dark forehead, we displayed the light-hearted smiles of a family taking a trip.


It was an unavoidable collision of dates, really. Ash Wednesday hit right before days off from school for teacher conferences and President’s Day. Like most parents of school-age children, we wanted to travel during a time when minimal classes would be missed.


But the result of this collision was a frustrating contrast for this contemplative faith blogger. While others were thinking about what Christ gave up, and what they would forgo in remembrance, I was pondering what my family would consume and do as we enjoyed our extended time together.


This contrast brought a word to my mind. A word that might not be the first to pop into your head, but that burst forth in mine with a new understanding.



Jesus Said Lent Series Button

As I have done with other periods of the church calendar, I will do a series on this blog to honor this Lenten season. Once a week, I will post about various teachings of Christ with the series, “Jesus Said… A Series for Lent.”


So, here is something Jesus said about humility:


Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. – Matthew 18:4


There is one particular way I see my children living out humility: they experience life as it is, in real time. They know they are not in control of all that happens to them. And though this can lead to fist-pounding hair-pulling temper tantrums, it can also lead to a deeper experience of their days. Not their days as they should be, but their days as they are.


Children stop to cry when they skin their knees and they pause to wonder when they see the petals of a flower. They are loud and quiet, somber and joyful as they respond to what is happening around them. They experiment and learn and fail and grow.


Children feel their way through each day. Because that is all they can do. They can neither control their emotions nor determine their calendar. Children are forced into the humility of experiencing life as it comes to them.


As adults, we get so consumed with our expectations of what should be, or goals of what could be, or nostalgia about what was, that we don’t respond to what is. We worry and regret and strive and control and work until we have exhausted ourselves in pursuit of something we do not have.


Jesus wants to release us from all that.


Jesus told his disciples to have the humility of a child when they asked who would be greatest in his kingdom. This response is freedom. In God’s kingdom, you don’t have to struggle to achieve something or strive to control an outcome. You can receive Jesus’ grace, bask in Jesus’ love, and experience life as it comes to you each day. That is a gift that requires humility and trust to open.


And so, as I think about my last week, how I began the season of somber reflection by flying off on holiday, I trust that it is okay. I could not control my circumstances to what they should have been. I could only experience them for what they were. They were wonderful, and I don’t have to apologize for that.


My faith is not about performance, or living up to some external expectation of how I should feel or what I should do. My faith is about my love for and trust in a Savior who gives me grace for each day.


Perhaps vacation was an appropriate beginning to the Lenten season after all.

Hope, the election, and Psalm 33

Most people I know think November 7 can’t come soon enough. I agree. We are weary of all the politicking. The ads, the debates, the phone calls. The number of attacks is perhaps equal only to the number of promises. Both presidential candidates have assured us that they are the true hope for America. Each has pledged that if we elect him, our lives will be better.

I don’t really believe either of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important to vote. I think each of us should weigh carefully what we believe is the best next step for our nation and place our vote accordingly. However, I think we need to be careful with that word “hope.” Our hope is a fragile thing. If we hand it over to a human being, it is likely to get broken.

Ever person running for every office in the country right now is a fallible human being. No matter how worthy their intent, the political decisions they make once in office will have mixed motives. And no matter how strong they seem now, their power and control will be limited.

I cannot imagine those first days and months in office for presidents. As they see they dynamics of a new Congress, as they learn the confidential information they could not know before they held the highest office, as they live through global events that they could not foresee, how do they weigh those things against the promises they made while on the campaign trail? I wonder if their disappointment is even bigger than ours.

There is a difference between hoping for a better future and placing our hope in a person to get us there. The first leaves room for those unknowns. The second virtually guarantees our disappointment.

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. – Psalm 33:16-17

What is true in America today has been true for every nation in the world at every point in history. We are not in control of the world. Our power is limited.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. -Psalm 33:10-11

The Lord, and only the Lord, has plans and purposes that hold fast. Why? Because God is not a fallible creature. His power and authority are unmatched.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. -Psalm 33:6-9

The Creator of the Universe is not wringing His hands in heaven, waiting to see whom our little nation elects as President. God was on His throne at the beginning of time, He is on His throne today, and He will continue to be on His throne no matter who is sitting in our oval office.

Even ancient Israel, a nation uniquely blessed by Yahweh to be a blessing to the nations, was never to put their hope in their king. Their hope was to be placed only in the Lord.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. - Psalm 33:20-22

As we place our vote and wish for a better future for this nation, my prayer is that we remember that this world is broken. Even if the person we choose is the one who is elected, we will be disappointed in coming days. May we place our hope only in Yahweh, whose love never fails. And may we continue to worship Him no matter what the future brings.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. -Psalm 33:1

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.