What I Can Control and What I Can’t

So much to do and so little time.
So much to do and so little time.

Control. So fleeting. So constraining. So illusionary.

When I asked Google ® for a definition for control it gave me this: the power to influence or direct people's behavior or the course of events.

Isn’t that nice? I don’t know about you but when I try to control people and events, it is rarely pretty. Or effective. Actually words like frustration, stress, and failure come to mind.

So I am on a quest to figure this out- what can I control and what can’t I?

I think figuring this out will make not only me happier, but everyone I live with, too. Here is what I have figured out so far.

What I Can’t Control:

  1. What Others Do. ALL people, including the people in my own family, are volitional human beings who make choices from their own emotional and logical paradigms. While their choices might have ramifications on my own life, I cannot control their choices, including their mood, responses, and their use of time.
  2. Today’s Energy. If I wake up feeling sick or fatigued, I have to work my day around the available resources. I can recharge my phone in 30 minutes, but my body takes much longer. I have to adjust to what is currently available.
  3. The Unexpected. Accidents. Illness. Emergencies. Cars breaking down. The air conditioner going out. The toilet overflowing. Oh, the list is endless, but when those things happen, there is no way to go around the problem. I must trudge straight through until it is resolved and I can get back to my routine. I believe the laws of the universe require problems to occur at the least convenient, worst possible, most expensive moment.
  4. Needs of Others. If a sick child needs attention, all other items fall off the “to do” list.  But other relationships also might need attention during the day. A friend needs to talk, a family with a new baby needs a meal, a family member requires help with a project…. Service to others supersedes my plans.
  5. Season I am In. This is a hard one for me, but honestly, different seasons in life require varying amounts of attention and energy. Some allow margin and some do not. My current season places boundaries on my options. I can’t change my life season any more than I can make winter into summer.

What I Can Control (And the control freak in me cries, “Finally!”)

  1. What I Do. I am also a volitional human and I can choose what I do or do not do, how I respond, if I retaliate, when I love, and who I serve. While I might blame someone for “making me mad,” in reality I choose to respond with anger or not.
  2. Tomorrow’s Energy. I may not control today’s energy, but I can control tomorrow’s. Today I can eat better, exercise, and go to bed on time. Those all make the next day better. I can also choose to not run myself ragged today and therefore completely empty my tank.
  3. Margin and Expectations. I can control my expectations of what I can accomplish in a day. If there is no margin left, then the unexpected will throw me into a tail spin. Allowing room to flex in my day alleviates the stress when emergencies present themselves. (And they will ALWAYS show up!)
  4. Saying Yes and Saying No. In the book “Essentialism”, author Greg McKeown discusses how the trivial many take over the vital few. Surrounded by numerous trivial needs, I must control what responsibilities I take on. By controlling my “yes’s” and my “no’s”  I carefully steer away from the trivial and head for the vital.
  5. I can choose to trust Him in my now, with all its current challenges, joys, and sorrows.
  6. Contentment in God’s Now. God controls my seasons and the challenges He allows in my life. I can choose to trust Him in my now, with all its current challenges, joys, and sorrows. I can decidedly place my hand in His, and walk through whatever He allows with the confidence that my Father loves me.

“Hello, my name is Susan. I am a control freak. It has been five minutes since I last tried to control something out of my control.“

But at least I am learning?

What To Do When I Hit the Wall

The Wall

The Wall

"Hello Wall.Nice to meet you. Just wish you hadn't hit me so hard. Or did I hit you?"

Events roll in. To Do's pile up. Laundry backs up.

It all seems urgent, necessary, and immediate. No time to recover, to think, to ponder, to meditate, to rest.

Which need is most immediate? Which fire must be put out? Which catastrophe must be avoided the most?

Today I feel like Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn: surrounded, hopeless, and uncomfortably suspicious that I brought this upon myself. [tweetthis]I feel like Custer: surrounded, hopeless, and uncomfortably suspicious that I brought this upon myself.[/tweetthis]

I have hit the wall and I need a solution.

Enter the Solution

God's solutions are always better than my solutions. The solution He gave me this morning- Psalm 91.

Step One: Seek refuge in Him.

Verses 1-10 make it very clear that this is not an imaginary situation. There are terrors, arrows whizzing past my ear, and ten thousand enemies.

He will cover you with His pinions,And under His wings you may seek refuge;His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,Or of the arrow that flies by day;Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. Ps. 91:4-6 (NASB)

My only job at this point is to seek refuge in Him because He will cover me and He will deliver me. I cannot plan or multi-task my way out of this situation. I am just going to have to sit down in the lap of His grace and let Him fight this battle for me.

Step Two: See the reinforcements

Verses 11-13 reveal that I am not in this fight alone.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,To guard you in all your ways.They will bear you up in their hands,That you do not strike your foot against a stone.You will tread upon the lion and cobra,The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. Ps. 91:11-13 (NASB)

Yes, I may be surrounded by enemies, screaming my name and trying to defeat me, but I am also surrounded by angels. Not anemic angels, strumming harps, but warrior angels, who guard me and bear me up.

Immediate, screaming needs tend to turn my focus on the material realities directly in front of me. I loose sight of the supernatural realities fighting on my side, enabling me to tread upon lions and cobras and not be harmed. (Psalm 91:12,13) So I must look at the situation with spiritual eyes or I will miss the whole angelic show!

Step Three: I do my job and I let God do His

“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;I will be with him in trouble;I will rescue him and honor him.“With a long life I will satisfy himAnd let him see My salvation.” Ps. 91:14-16 (NASB)

Oh my, how I love this. Verses 14-16 shift from the voice of the psalmist, to words from the mouth of my Lord. He tells me exactly what my jobs are and exactly what He will do.

My jobs:

  • love Him
  • know His name
  • call upon Him

His promises:

  • deliver me
  • set me on high
  • answer me
  • be with me in trouble
  • rescue and honor me
  • satisfy me with life
  • let me see His salvation

His list is long and mine is short . God's work is active and mine is passive .

I get so darn busy fighting my battles on my own that I loose sight of the fact that He just wants me to love Him. He wants to deliver me and all I need to do is call upon Him. [tweetthis]I get so busy fighting my battles that I lose sight of the fact that He just wants me to love Him. [/tweetthis]

So good bye wall. Nice running into you. But I have a shelter, a refuge, and a fortress that I would rather spend time with.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighWill abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust!" Psalm 91:1-2