For the past week or so, I’ve begun each day with an acute awareness that this could be the last morning I wake up before the twins are born. This could be the last cup of coffee I drink before I hold my two newborn sons in my arms. This could be the last full night of sleep…well, for a long, long, long time.
There is something very unsettling about not knowing the timing of such a massive life change. It makes it impossibly hard to plan things at work because I don’t know if I will actually be around when this stuff happens. I have a whole list of things that I need to get done around the house but don’t really know when, or if, I will ever be able to do them. I find myself getting really frustrated by the whole thing. I can feel all kinds of anxiety building up in me, but, if I’m honest, I don’t think it’s all about the task stuff I want to get done. I think it has more to do with how this whole situation is making me brutally aware that I’m not ultimately in the driver’s seat of my life.
The truth is, I spend just about every waking moment of my life pretending that I am in control. That what happens next is up to me. That where I end up tomorrow or ten years from now is a direct result of the choices I make between now and then.
I’m not alone in this. Our culture breeds this type of independence. We are motivated by it, we’re even comforted by it. And really, the only thing that’s wrong with it is that it is absolutely and entirely untrue.
I actually have very little control over the path that lies before me. Sure, I can do certain things that better prepare me for certain possibilities in the future, like going to college, learning an instrument, saving money, etc… And those are all good things to do, but none of them have the power to determine my future. Every one of us is just one phone call or diagnosis away from a completely different life. In fact, the things that likely impact us the most; i.e., birth, death, sickness and the relationships that we have, are also the most unpredictable variables in our lives. With all of our planning, we still have, quite-honestly, know idea what tomorrow will bring.
As I’ve recently discovered, in spite of all the modern methods of birth control, I still don’t have ultimate control over the number of kids that I’m going to have. And with all of the parenting techniques available in the bookstore and on the internet, I still can’t control the type of personality those kids will have, the decisions they will make when I’m not standing over their shoulder or the path their life will take them on in the future. And with all of the medical advancements we have seen, we still have very little control over some very life-threatening illnesses. And then you have other people’s behavior, that you clearly can’t control, which could at any moment drop all sorts of chaos on your 5-year goals. It’s enough to drive you over the edge if you think about all of the things that are far, far, far outside of our control. So we usually cope by ignoring those things and focusing all of our attention on all of the small things in our lives that we can control. All the while, hoping we don’t get side-wiped by something that flushes our plans down the toilet.
Don’t take this the wrong way. This isn’t a cop out. I think that we are all called to take responsibility and to be cultivators of our families, the world around us and in particular the kingdom of God, and this requires wise planning and strategy. There is nothing wrong with all of that. I guess I’m just being reminded that I run too easily to my own plans for comfort. Somehow believing that my ability to be joyful and content is directly related to my ability to control my circumstances. You would think I would be past this by now. That, with all of the things I say and write about trusting in God and his goodness alone, I would actually be able to do so without second-guessing Him. But, even though God has proven himself to be faithful and trustworthy, time and time again, I still find myself retreating to self-sufficiency and maintaining a death grip on the illusion of control.
What’s been helping me to loosen my grip lately has been the simple practice of reflecting. Just thinking back on the many things in my life that shaped me in major ways that were not ultimately my choice. With my limited scope and chronically selfish decision-making, I never would have chosen all of the twists and turns that my path has taken over the years and never would have ended up where I am today. I would have missed out on countless joys. And countless sorrows as well, to be sure. Sorrows that ultimately proved to be catalysts for growth and development, and even, in some cases, my protection.
If I was ultimately in control of my life I don’t know where I would be, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be here…where I sit today…surrounded by a loving community of friends…with two kids and an amazing wife…imminently expecting the birth of twin boys.
Thank God I’m not in control.