“Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’” — John 13:7, ESV.
A lot of us traverse life with a need to control. We try to control ourselves, we try to re-chart the lives of those we spend time with, and we try to fix people like they’re projects instead of their own individuals with needs.
We all have a need to control almost everything in life, and we get down on ourselves when we can’t.
Surrender. I know not everyone does, but I believe in Jesus. I believe that I’m operating on God’s plan, not my own plan. Yes, I have a plan for my life. Yes, I have an idea of where I want to go. But the more I try to control things, the more I self-destruct. The more I lament when things aren’t in my control, and the more I get down on myself when my personal relationships aren’t going well, when I make mistakes, and when my classroom is a dumpster fire. The more I will lament when I’m not happy.
But am I truly in control of my life? To a degree, yes, I am. But to another degree, no. And by Scripture and my faith, God controls my life. I don’t. And a lot of external factors in life control our lives much more than we can ourselves. But life is about moving onto the next moment, not being too high on our highs or too low on our lows. We will all get to dark places in our minds, but letting go and surrendering are necessary life skills that will help us move forward and move on. No, we won’t always achieve the things we want to — but we will always need to have life go on. And we will loosen our strangleholds over all the projects in our lives and all the things we are trying to fix. And yes, that includes people.
While that latter statement might sound deterministic and fatalistic, it is no excuse not to try. We traverse our lives doing our jobs and taking care of our own, but that when things don’t go according to plan, when things go horribly wrong, we have to adapt and keep ourselves at peace. We don’t take it personally. I wrote the following on the topic back in March:
“Trust God, no matter what,” I tell myself possibly a million times a day. I find this mentality to manifest itself greatly in my interpersonal relationships and interactions. I won’t internally snap or be as passive-aggressive in my impatience. I find myself to be significantly more patient and willing to wait. I don’t find the need to fix people as much, because God is at work in their lives, and inserting myself too much means that I am trying to be God.
That is not to say that we are puppets of omnipotent Gods or automatons. I will always keep this quote from Charlotte Bronte of Jane Eyre’s testimony of frustration as a reminder:
“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings?…Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart!”’
Again, we don’t need to be happy or grateful for every hurdle thrown at us. Anxiety is, at the core, tied to a need to control, so stop trying to control everything. I can offer you all the platitudes like everything is going to work out or everything is going to be alright.
But that’s not what you believe or want to hear right now. Right now, it probably seems like, at times, that everything is not going to be alright. And that’s valid.
But things will work out. You have to trust in that. Think about all the times in your past where it didn’t feel like life was going to go on, when you felt like the world was going to crash down. Things are going to work out. They probably won’t work out the way you envision them right now, but they will work out in the future.
You, like me, probably obsess over the results. And I get it. But you don’t control results. A lot of factors do — you’re one of many, but you are not God and you can’t be a perfect person trying to make a perfect world.
But here’s the newsflash — your results don’t define you. Yes, they define your job promotion or your relationship with your boss, but results do not control your value or worth. You’ve been trying really hard, but life is not linear. It’s not always that you put in a lot of work and effort and things will magically get better. Sometimes, no matter how much effort or time you put into something, it will still not work out. That shouldn’t discourage you from trying, but it should discourage you from taking things not going your way personally.
Move on. Live your life. Surrender and let go. Allow life to work for yourself a little bit, and above all, let go of your need to control. You’ll thank yourself for doing so.