My friend told me a story the other day about the worst experience he ever had participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange. Just like with all Secret Santa gift exchanges, each person in my friends class put their name on a piece of paper and tossed it into a hat. Then, one by one, they drew names to find out whom they would secretly be buying gifts for.
Apparently, in order to help people out, all the participants were asked to also write on the piece of paper a few items that they might like to receive, or some of their interests, this way the Secret Santa’s had information to help them in their shopping.
When my friend drew a piece of paper from the hat he was shocked to discover that the only suggestion the individual offered; the only thing written on the piece of paper besides the boy’s name was “gift cards”.
Now don’t get me wrong-- gift cards can be a wonderful present-- but something about putting “gift cards” down as the only thing on your Christmas list strikes me as the epitome of needing to be in control. I do not believe for a second that this persons’s only interest is gift cards-- they put down “gift cards” because they wanted to be in control, because they didn’t trust their Secret Santa to actually buy them anything worth while.
We see this longing for control in our lives of faith as well. We want to prove that God exists. We want the church to cater to our preferences in music and style of worship. We want God to be an active presence in our lives… but only when it is convenient for us.
I think if we are really honest with ourselves we have to admit that, at times, we aren’t really that interested in knowing God or grow closer to God. Rather, what we really want is to gods-- we want to be in control.
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me." - John 1:43
Here is the hard truth: living a life of Christian faith ultimately means relinquishing our need for control. Jesus calls us to leave our normal lives behind and discover a new way of life in him. When we try and control everything, when we try and play the role that only God can fill, we will always fail.
But when we let go of our need for that all-encompassing control and we simply follow Jesus and let God be God that’s when we discover peace and hope and life abundant.
May we be released from our need for control and learn to follow Jesus into a new way of life. Amen.