Thursday, January 27, 2005

Control Freak

Back in my radio days, Janet Jackson came out with an album (remember when they were albums?) called Control. The explanation for the title was that this was the first time in her life she ever felt like she had control of her music. Isn't that what we all seek? Control? The ironic thing is that Miss Jackson may have had a bit more control, but she still had producers, writers, musicians, publicists and a ton of others who had much more control over what happened to her music than Janet ever thought about. She was in control, yet she didn't have control.

I wouldn't call myself a control freak, but I will admit that I don't enjoy being told what to do. I know that my wife REALLY doesn't like being told what to do. Yet somehow, things get done at our house. Go figure.

But I think most people have a certain percentage of "control freak" inside. It's natural to want the ability to always get our way. Now maybe there are a few people who enjoy being told what to do, but those are the exceptions which prove the rule. Almost everyone wants to call the shots if they can. I'd rather be behind the wheel in a car during bad weather than to ride along without the ability to do anything to prevent skidding into oncoming traffic. When we get sick, we get uncomfortable in part because we're at the mercy of the doctor and the pharmacist and the medication and who knows what else. If our hands are tied, we tend to panic.

The reason I mention all this is a passage in a book I'm reading. It's a biography of George Washington, His Excellency by Joseph Ellis. The author mentioned that before the Revolutionary War, Washington was a "lukewarm Episcopalian" who prefered to stand instead of kneel to pray. Then the author made an aside, "Was this a statement?" That struck me. Is standing for prayer a subliminal way for us to keep control in prayer?

I'll admit that most of my prayer time isn't spent on my knees. In public I stand. In private I'm usually sitting or lying on my back. If that's a statement, I'm not sure what that statement is.

I'm sure that many times I'm tempted to set the agenda for prayer time. First comes praise, then some confession, some thanksgiving, then the laundry list of concerns. But is that how God wants us to pray? Where is the time for listening to God? Prayer isn't designed to be a monologue, but a dialogue. But there are times when I don't let God get a word in edgewise. Is it a control issue? Or am I just afraid of what I might hear?

I've heard it said that at salvation we turn over the keys to our life to God. Then for the rest of our lives we keep trying to find a way to take them back. Pretty stupid, really. Like I can come up with better answers than the Almighty. But the battle for control continues.

I'm not certain that kneeling would help matters. God always stresses the condition of the heart not the condition of the body. The body posture seems to be a reminder. If we kneel, we should realize that we are not in control. "Should" is the operative word. But it's too easy to get a death grip on the keys to our lives; foolishly thinking we actually have control.

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