Controlling ourselves to death
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
(Source — Genesis 3:4–7, NRSV)
What the serpent offered Eve was tempting. It wasn’t the apple, but what the apple represented. It is the same offer we receive today and have throughout all of human history — to be like God.
To be in control.
Oh how we desire to be in control. Yet, in reality, we aren’t and we never have been.
Why this desire of being in control? Why is this desire to strong in us?
The desire to be in control has led to mean tyrants being in power, wars, death, destruction, abuse, subjugation. The desire to be in control is paired with someone not being in control, but rather being controlled. It is necessary. You can’t be in control, unless you can control something or someone. Otherwise it isn’t in control.
And the lie the serpent told Eve is the same lie we hear today in so many ways. It’s the lie that by being in control, we’ll be just like God. Except we aren’t just like God. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Even God doesn’t wield control like a weapon. If God is love, then we have to take a look at what love is like.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
(Source 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, NRSV)
No where in that passage do we see that love is forceful and demanding. It is invitational. God is just like this too. God desires us to be in relationship with God, but God doesn’t force that on us. That wouldn’t be the way of love.
The way of love and the way of control are in conflict with each other. Love is about self-giving. Control is about selfishness and doing what I want to do when I want to do it.
I have seen this play out over and over again. I have seen it with the addict — the one who tries to control their situation and thinks they have control over their addiction. Yet, it is this tight hold of control that keeps them addicted and moving towards destruction. I have seen it with the homeless person — the one who tried to control their situation and thinks they have control over their housing situation. Yet, it is this tight hold of control that keeps them homeless and moving towards destruction.
The same could be said of people who are wildly successful, according to the world, but in reality are a mess.
People who try to control their lives usually make matters worse. They often tend to try to exert even more control — which is the worst thing they could do.
It is only in letting go of the lie of control, that life starts to improve for many. Take any 12 step program and see what is usually the first step. For Alcoholics Anonymous the first step is stated as: We admit we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives have become unmanageable.
It’s not just the addict that should be saying this. Rather, every single one of us should say this every day.
You can’t help someone who tries to remain in control. You literally can’t do anything helpful for that person. Doing exactly what they want isn’t really helpful. For some people, the only way for them to let go is to hit rock bottom.
And that is where you come in. To be there for someone. When they are ready. When they are ready to let go of control and actually receive help. When they can admit that their way isn’t working. It is only then that they can be helped.
Do I wish it was some other way? Sure. But really, all I would be wishing for would be control over other people. And I don’t wish for that. Remember, Love is patient. It does not insist on its own way. Love never ends. Control does.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on December 28, 2018.