Friday, July 20, 2018

77-8A Who's In Charge?

Inspired by the song "Control (Somehow You Want Me)" by Tenth Avenue North from their album Followers. Available at YouTube, iTunes & Amazon.

Are you a control freak like me?

When I was younger, my mother always told me that I was born to be a leader! I really didn't feel like a leader at the time, but when I started college, I found myself leading my project groups more often than not.

My strategy always went something like this: class started, we formed our groups, and I would take the initiative to take down everybody's cell numbers and email addresses. Then, I would email the group the contact information. I didn't say anything about wanting to be in charge at the time, but I would work with the group to organize our first meeting within the first week. At our meeting, we would then discuss who would be the "point person," as we would call it. Whether they were the real authority or not, it was always good to have a person who would help coordinate all the schedules, deadlines, and receipt of everybody's parts of the project.

The idea of the initial contact sheet was twofold: (1) to make sure everybody got the necessary information, and (2) to put my best foot forward. Sometimes, someone else who was louder and more authoritative in general would step up to be the leader, which I fully supported. If I didn't need to be the leader, that was fine by me. I really didn't need the added stress. But if nobody stepped up, or that specific person who would step up would likely not fulfill the necessary obligations, I would assert myself as the leader.

At that point, nobody would complain. They would do their parts, I would do my part, I would combine the papers, I would assemble the PowerPoint, and we would get an A. It was like clockwork.

Why did I want to be the leader? Because I learned in one of my earliest classes that if I let just anybody lead the group, there would be chaos.

My father has very high standards. Too high, to be honest. But his attitude has influenced me to believe that there is usually one best way to do something, and it falls on us to try to find that best way. When I had that early class, there were three leaders, no accountability, and way too much bickering. People weren't showing up to meetings. They weren't keeping up with the expectations of the group. And when we tried to email them, all we received back was electronic crickets.

What drove me crazy about this was that I was helpless to do anything about it other than my own work. However, I did try to remedy the problem by reaching out personally to the missing people, taking them aside, and helping them understand what we were expecting of them, what they needed to do to catch up, and how they could show everybody else that they really meant it when they said they cared about the success of the project. In the end, we had a successful project, if not significantly hodgepodge.

And I decided that day that I would never ever let a group flounder that far. If I needed to be the leader, I would be the leader.

Why did this matter to me? Because the success of the group directly affected my success at college. If we didn't do well, I wouldn't do well. Not everyone was under the pressure to get all A's, but when your parents are footing the entire bill and you make the mistake of getting all A's the first time around, you gotta keep it up as long as you can. So I wanted to be in a position where I had control over our destiny. If we did well, I did my job. If we didn't do well, then it was no one's fault but my own.

I feel no shame in having had this attitude. I knew that I didn't come across as demanding or egotistical. I cared as much about everybody else getting the A as I did about me getting it. Often, this was the best grade some of the students would get that term, and if I could help them be better off, then that made me feel like the effort was that much more worth it.

But I realize that I try to manage life the same way. I want to be in charge.

Do you feel this way, too? Do you worry when you don't know what the future holds? Instead of praying, do you try to get your hands on anything that might help the situation? We end up being busybodies trying to manage our own lives, when God has told us to do something better: give up our control.

I remember every sleepless night I had in college: the two overnight take-home finals for macroeconomics, and every single night before final grades were posted. As Portland State required all grades in at a certain time, they were guaranteed to be there on the website at 8am that day. And I would lay there, worrying, stressing, having nightmares about what would happen. What was so dumb was that I was worrying not about failing the class; I was worrying about, heaven forbid, getting a B+. Because that would be so terrible!

I forgot to put my trust in the Lord. Trusting the Lord is not just something we say or choose to do when we are at the altar. It is what we do when we know the grades are going to be posted and we don't know what we will find out. It is what we do when we learn that the same car rental was booked 6 different times due to a web glitch and we are going to have to call the billing department in the morning about getting 5 of them cancelled with no penalty (which is exactly what I have to do tomorrow). It is about going to the doctor because we have a pain in a place and have no idea what it could be.

Jesus calls us to follow Him. That means letting go of our need for being in control of everything. He is more than capable of taking care of our every need. He is wiser than we could ever be, and He can see further down the road than we could even guess.

He has given us the ability to do our part. I did my part in my schoolwork; the rest was up to Him. And I did see literal miracles that helped me get those ridiculous A's and A-'s every single term of my college career. So, after all that, why do I doubt Him at all?

My hope is that we can lay down our plans and our dreams and follow what God has, to trust Him along the way and to not worry about what is outside our control. It is so freeing knowing that I don't have get everything right, that I have a leader who I can rely on to guide me to the greatest of all success.

Lord, thank you for being capable of anything and willing to use your power to help us in our time of need. Give us energy to do our part, and to be satisfied with the effort we put in. And help us to leave the rest to Your capable hands. Help us to feel the freedom that comes from taking our hands off of our problems and giving You control.

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