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Steve’s Control Issues are Getting Out of Control

March 12, 2019

Steve Brown is a treasure. I discovered him during my sojourn among the people who are the Presbyterian Church in America while working on my doctoral degree.

He recently wrote this. It’s gonna be a bit a longer than you’re used to reading here, but pull up a chair and get a reload on your coffee. —

We just returned from vacation in the mountains of North Carolina near where I grew up.

We had a great time; but after a week, I was climbing the walls. When we drove into our garage last night, I felt a sense of relief. My wife thinks I’m crazy. We were in a wonderful mountain setting, we were with friends we like a lot, and we played the whole time. Why in the world would a restful and fun vacation drive me nuts?

Let me tell you. You can’t control vacations. That’s why.

You can’t control retirement either. Almost all my friends who are my age are either retired or dead. The live ones often ask me when I’m going to retire. My answer is always the same, “When I drool or die.” When one retires, one loses control.

And it’s the same with Christmas. I would really like to give you a religious reason for my dislike of Christmas. I guess I could tell you that they’ve taken Jesus out of Christmas, it’s become a pagan holiday, and there’s a war against Christmas. But the truth is I don’t care about any of that. Well, I do but not much. The truth is that it’s almost impossible to control Christmas.

I haven’t been a pastor for a long time, but I was one for almost 30 years. The Bible says that if you can do 25 years as a pastor, you get a free pass to heaven. They don’t even ask about Jesus. They just invite you in and offer congratulations. When a dog plays checkers, one doesn’t criticize his game; one is simply surprised that he’s playing at all. If one can, as it were, play checkers for that many years, the angels are amazed and you get a free pass. Where in the Bible does it say that? I’m not sure, but it must.

I’m often asked if I miss being a pastor. My answer here is always the same as well. A cure for depression is to remember that it could be worse. It really could be worse…I could still be a pastor. But there is one place where I would put an addendum. I do miss having some control over what happens in church. If you’re not the pastor or an officer (I’m neither), you have no control. If you don’t like the music, the decisions of the leadership, or the mission statement of the church, there isn’t a thing you can do about it. Frankly, I would like a little control.

What would you change if you could?

Well, nothing…but that’s not the point. If there were something I didn’t like, I wouldn’t be able to change it. It would be nice to know that I would at least have a vote. I can’t change anything because I have absolutely no control.

That’s neurotic!

Of course it is, but it’s also human, sinful…and maybe a bigger sin than most of us would suppose. In fact, I believe that our need to control is at the heart of our fear, shame, guilt, and much of our disobedience. At least that’s true for me.

I’m afraid Steve’s not the only one. That’s true for me, too.

Oh, and for you as well?

Let’s sit with this awhile: our need to control is at the heart of our fear, shame, guilt, and much of our disobedience. 

See you back here tomorrow.


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