Sometimes I have control issues. Sometimes I have control issues.
I'm not speaking here as myself -- don't get me wrong. I'm quoting
someone with whom I was talking a few weeks back, and that's how he
explained his anxiety during this season of numbered shopping days and
drop-in friends. He said, "I can't take all the Christmas
craziness because sometimes I have control issues."
You didn't think that I was like that, did you? I'm Mr. Just-let-go!
I don't think I have to define control issues for anyone here in the
room. But let me do it anyway. For the kids. "Control issues"
means you have standards and a clear sense that your own hand at the
helm of any vessel is superior to anyone else's. The phrase means if
it's your puck in the hockey game, you get to referee the ice. It means
that "the buck stops here" is not a desk ornament but a
Control issues are OK, I guess, if they don't wear you down or wear
down anyone around you, the way that someone else always being in
charge can do, squelching the spirit. A lot of us have these issues
Things must have been different two thousand years ago. Imagine Mary
with control issues. The scripture reports that when Gabriel first
visited and told her she would have a son she was "deeply
troubled," but then she spoke the mantra of higher consciousness:
let it be. Mary would bear God's child, but she wouldn't have done so
if she had control issues.
Imagine Joseph with control issues. Actually that's easy. He didn't
have the perfect reaction to the angel's first news about what was
going on in Mary's life. He pondered what the scriptures call
"privately breaking the engagement." It sounds
like what we do before a blind date. But another angel visited him in a
dream, and when he woke up, he let go, and he married Mary without a
hint of hesitation.
Imagine God with control issues. The God who is in charge of
everything all of the time, finding parking places here and holding off
hurricanes there, the God with lists of thou-shalt-nots and pages of
dietary mandates will wear lots of people down, substituting law for
love. The God who runs a universe with no space for human creativity
and no hope for free will, who therefore makes war inevitable and peace
unworthy of our earnest work, this puppetmaster god doesn't pass
the test of faithful human insight if God has control issues. But if
two thousand years of theology are correct, and our God became human in
a baby, if the heart of our faith is right and the word became flesh
and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, if God was once not only
human but an infant -- an infant -- then God must be able to let go on
a scale that none of us can even comprehend. But we can imitate it. We
can imitate Mary and Joseph and Jesus and God. Not in avoiding what is
our responsibility but in giving a measure of trust to the ways of God
that are not our ways as well as a measure of trust to the ways of
people that are not ours either. When we trust God and each other,
something new is born.
If we can get over our control issues, maybe God has something new
to show us this Christmas. Something new that will grow in us.
Something to imitate and something to adore. Flesh and blood as
precious as all divinity, sitting right next to us in a pew, living
homeless in our city, serving in our armed forces, married to us,
trying to inspire us to see that in Jesus we find a new way to be
Birth is the ultimate act of vulnerable letting go. Life is the
heart of what we value in our faith. Love is the way Jesus would have
us live. If we're willing to pursue another's way and let them lead,
not by directing us, but inspiring us. I think that's what Jesus would
Merry Christmas. Amen.
Copyright © 2005
Kenneth F. Baily. Used by permission.