As I write this, I’m recovering from surgery I had Monday to remove a (benign) cyst that was discovered just a couple of weeks ago.
I won’t mince words…I was an absolute wreck leading up to the surgery. The thought of “going under” (general anesthesia) was terrifying to me. (If you’re wondering why someone would be scared of being totally unconscious and at the mercy of other people’s skills and decisions, you’re probably not a candidate for fully appreciating this post.)
You see, I’m a control freak. Like many other “type A” people, I find comfort in taking charge and relying on myself for outcomes. There is no level of being more out of control than being under general anesthesia.
The night before surgery, in between tears, I grabbed a notepad next to my bed and started writing the things that scared me:
“Won’t wake up after surgery.”
“Will wake up during surgery.”
“Will be awake during surgery but no one will know and I’ll feel everything.”
“Surgeon will make mistake, causing permanent damage.”
“Surgeon will find something unexpectedly bad inside.”
“Going to die!”
As I reviewed my dramatic list of fears, my eyes drifted to the bottom of my notepad where the following verse was printed: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
I felt like I had been socked in the gut with spiritual guilt. What kind of Christian am I that I can’t simply “cast” these cares on God? Aren’t I supposed to take comfort in knowing there is a God who loves me? Shouldn’t I just “trust” God about each and every thing that comes my way?
It’s funny that atheists often claim Christians believe in God because they want to (“wish fulfillment,” according to Freud) or because it’s comforting. This couldn’t be further from the truth for a control freak! Christianity is a tough religion for those of us burdened with a need to be in total control. Atheism would actually be easier for me because, if true, it would mean there is no higher power in control of my life. Just me.
I am a Christian because I believe Christianity is true, not because it’s what I find comforting.
Just for fun today, let’s consider how discomforting the truth of Christianity can be for control freaks!
We have no say in how the world works.
Control freaks like to have a say in everything. Remember how God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” That was God’s not-so-subtle way of reminding us that only He gets to decide how the world works. If I were Job, I might have accidentally replied to God’s rhetorical question, “I wasn’t there, but I would like to have been invited.” And then I would have been in big trouble. Good thing I wasn’t Job.
We control freaks have to get comfortable with the understanding that how the world works is outside of our sphere of influence and understanding. Ultimately, we are totally out of control, and God is totally in control. Some people might like that thought, but for the control freak it’s a reality that requires uncomfortable acceptance. I don’t make the rules based on what I like, what I want, or what makes sense to me. God does.
Prayer is totally unpredictable from the human perspective.
The Bible gives us very little information on how prayer “works.” We know we’re supposed to pray, but we have no way of knowing what God will do in response. Prayer is a very difficult concept for control freaks! By nature, we want to control processes and outcomes. With prayer, we can’t control either. It’s about total dependence on God.
We control freaks would rather depend on ourselves for everything in life. Given the seeming ambiguity of prayer, it can be tempting to avoid it and spend more time relying on ourselves to solve problems. Prayer has to be a very conscious effort for the control freak. We have to believe that it’s important despite not having a clear understanding of outcomes.
God didn’t give us all the answers we want in the Bible.
I want answers for everything. Knowledge is my friend, ambiguity my foe. I would be as happy as a pig in mud if God made it so there were 10,000 specific steps to go through to get all the answers about life. That would put knowledge in my control. Some religions offer that, and I can easily see the lure of such black-and-white processes. But Christianity never promises such specific stepping stones to comprehensive knowledge.
By believing that Christianity is true, control freaks are forced to accept the ambiguity that comes from the Bible not giving us every answer we would like to have. I wish the Bible was written in more of a FAQ style – a nice question and answer format that methodically covers all questions about existence. Apparently, God didn’t think that was necessary. The Book we have is the one He thinks is sufficient.
I think being a control freak can actually be a barrier to becoming a Christian for many people, for the reasons I just described. Our personalities greatly shape what we want to believe. That’s why it’s so important that we raise our kids with the right spiritual objective: searching for what is objectively true, outside of our subjective experience.
I’d love to hear from any fellow control freaks – how do you think this personality type impacts your faith?