When I was younger, I stressed a lot. Life was a game of Operation, and I was always touching the edges of that little man and getting shocked. Going to the movies was the worst for me. I don’t know why, but I was so fearful that we’d miss the beginning of our movie that I would’ve rather stayed home altogether. These days you probably wouldn’t guess that I used to be like that, and I don’t get nervous about much anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve just elaborately covered up my worried side by wearing a veneer of confidence, but I really do think I’ve gotten over those old worries. For the most part.
I’ve been living in Germany for a little over a month. I love everything about it. The Bozichs, the family I live with, are awesome, and the Lord has blessed the youth ministry in incredible ways here. I’m grateful to be a part of it. God’s showing me a lot about ministry and good friendships and taking risks, and it’s all very exciting.
Last week my family flew in from the States and we spent a week together, wreaking havoc across the continent. It was joyful and fun and memorable. But honestly, it was really hard not having my Dad there, and his absence was felt. Interestingly, for the first time in a long time for me, I started to feel those old worries and stresses again like when I was a kid, even though at surface level we were having pure fun together. What I realized is that I was trying to compensate for my Dad’s absence; I was protective of my family and wanted to carry them on my back and make everything perfect. Basically trying to control the trip because I was afraid of what would happen if it wasn’t in my control.
Control is a funny thing. Most of the time I don’t need control, and I can laugh through life and stressful situations because I know Jesus has got it. This past week though, it was as if I forgot all those things I knew about Jesus. I reverted to this child-like state of worry, because, when it comes down to it, I doubted Jesus could take care of us if I wasn’t trying to control things myself.
A few days ago I felt the Lord saying to me, “You don’t know the depth of my grace.” Yes. True. I don’t. Grace is Freedom. Grace is Surrender. Because we can’t do this on our own. It is impossible. I have tried. I have failed every time. I was reading 2 Corinthians the other day, and one part stuck out to me. It said, “You are only looking at the surface of things.” And I knew it was true of me, that I was looking at the surface of things and not at God, not giving in to grace. I had to give up trying on my own.
To understand grace, I think, is also to grasp that we don’t need to be in control anymore. It’s handing over the pen to our script, and saying to God, “Here, take this, because I can’t write anything nearly as beautiful as you can.”
2 Corinthians 5, verses 16-19 says:
6 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
So there I was, a few days into my family’s trip. I had realized I was holding onto the pen really tightly, but I hadn’t quite figured out why or what to do next. The four of us got in our rental and drove over to the country next-door, the Czech Republic and headed to Prague. We pulled up to this awesome hotel in the heart of the downtown, and right then we realized we had forgotten the most important thing back in Germany. We’d forgotten our Passports. Instead of freaking out, my Mom calmly laid out our options and figured out a game plan. She’s incredible. I was tempted to freak out, but decided God wouldn’t think highly of that. My Mom and my brother decided to drive back to Germany the next day, a six-hour drive, and got the passports successfully. I realized then that I was holding on to an unhealthy amount of stress, and I wish I could say that I gave the pen up then, but I didn’t. I really didn’t until my family’s last night here.
The idea that I’m an unfinished person bothers me some. It shouldn’t, because I am wholly imperfect and incomplete. But I get the idea in my head every once in a while that I’m competent in most areas of life, so as long as I stay where I am, there’s no need to grow or change. That is a lie. Humans are never finished until we die and meet our Maker. There’s a lot of people who become calloused and unwilling to change, and I don’t think that’s ever a good thing. I really don’t want that to be me, either. So when I started feeling this stress, I figured it’d probably go away and I wouldn’t have to actually do anything. But I was wrong.
I think letting go of control is an everyday act. Taking a deep breath, and saying “I accept Your grace.” Exhaling, saying, “This life’s in Your hands.” That’s necessary, because we’re never finished. We’re works in progress, and our Writer is ready to let his pen fly across our pages, creating beauty never before seen until now. But we have to let Him. We have to give up control, we have to be willing to change, we have to be willing to accept grace. And when I realized that, I was able to breathe again. I think this is one of those truths we have to relearn all the time throughout our lives, because we always forget about it and try to take control again. I’m tired of that.
True freedom through Christ is only found when we give up control and when we accept grace. And freedom is a glorious thing.
This is my prayer, and I hope it can be your too: “Lord, help me accept Your grace. Show me where I need to change. Take hold of this messed-up life, and let me give up control of it.”
It’s worth it folks. Go take on the world with this freedom Jesus gives us.