Ironically enough, I might actually have a control addiction. Let me count the ways. I always drive when our family goes somewhere. I have three jobs, in all of which I serve as the leader of my division. Several times a day, I have the ability to alter and/or approve documents for work, and I am also not capable of allowing anyone else to tell a story that I was involved in. I must tell the story, because no one else will capture the true essence of what we experienced in the retelling. I think it’s time that I examine the possibility that I have allowed myself to adapt a lifestyle of what I’m going to call the “control-privileged life.”
I’ll define the control-privileged life as: “One whom has control over the majority of their choices and outcomes in everyday life.” Of course I have bosses that shape and somewhat limit my choice options, but at the end of the day, I have the luxury of making my proverbial bed, and living in it. But you know what? It’s actually not as fun as you might think.
It’s a burden to know that my own imagination, intelligence, and abilities are the limit. Anything I come up with will only be as good what I’m capable of. I am the ceiling. I am the lid. Pressure is high. The good news is that I have won state awards for my work and have enjoyed success in a very competitive field. That likely feeds my drive to continue this somewhat proven method, but If I’m being completely honest, I’m actually really self-conscience and insecure about my abilities. I’m always afraid that I won’t be good enough, or that someone better is going to get that thing that I really want because they worked harder, sacrificed more, and are more deserving. So I try to ignore those feelings the best that I can, and do my best to produce a stable life for my family.
Someone once labeled me as “stable.” At the time, I took it as a huge compliment and badge of honor; mostly because I was literally being compared to someone who they thought was very unstable, and I agreed, and I thought it was a good thing to be regarded as someone with long-term consistency. But as I grow older, I realize that consistency is relative. And consistency in some ways can be boring. It’s possible to be consistently bad at something, and all stability really means is that I’m not known as a risk-taker. I’ll bet that my professional references would even say, “No surprises with this guy … he’s really stable.”
I don’t think I like that.
Maybe that’s why I like roller coasters so much. They allow me be to out of control for short bursts of speed and excitement, and experience what life is like in ways that I won’t allow myself to go. Then when the train returns to the station, I feel like I accomplished something…
That’s messed up.
See, one of the real reasons I think I like roller coasters is the illusion of relinquishing control. Most major theme parks have a long positive safety record, and while there is some risk involved in strapping yourself into a 100 mph inverted sled on steel rails, millions of dollars have been invested in engineering it to return riders safely to the station, and I trust the system. Millions of people ride them every year, and I’m more likely to get injured while in-line for the ride, than riding it. My wife hates roller coasters. But you know what? She rides them with me anyway, because she knows I like them. She closes her eyes, grips the lap bar, grits her teeth, and prays through every terrifying second. I on the other hand, am all smiles, hands up in the air, and never wanting it to end.
I’ve learned a lot from my wife, Ashlie. We’ve been together 15 years. She lives and acts on her faith like I ride my roller coasters. She introduced me to Jesus as a teenager and she encourages me in my relatively young walk with Jesus. This is where my control-privileged life reveals its most unhealthy feature: fear of acting in faith.
Control is comfortable. Acting in faith is extremely uncomfortable for me. And it’s ridiculous, really, because if I truly believe that God is real, His word is true, and Jesus died and rose from the dead to cleanse the very sin that I’m guilty of in this moment, it shouldn’t be this hard, right?
I promise this will be that last time I talk about roller coasters, but for Ashlie, riding a roller coaster is an act of faith. She doesn’t trust that evil machine whatsoever. I honestly don’t think she expects to survive the experience. For me it’s not. It’s a logically safe activity. I have the assurance that engineering will prevail, and that I somehow have vicarious control of the ride by making the choice to sit in it. I think the control-privileged life has a way of blurring the lines of control. I think my arrogance has allowed me to reason that I have more control than I actually do, and I’m glad to have identified a potentially de-railing problem. I need to trust God more than a roller coaster.
So look-out world. I’m going to start taking some risks and acting in faith more. Don’t worry… I’ll start small and work my way up. Remember, I’m too stable to act too unbalanced. God will not allow me to completely ruin all that I’ve worked for, because the truth is, I didn’t earn it, He gave it to me.
It’s time for me to get on some rides, close my eyes, grit my teeth, and pray through every terrifying second. It should be quite a thrill.