Who’s in control here, anyway?
Some of you have probably heard this story (or a version of it) — I first heard it at a twelve-step recovery meeting, but its lesson is so important, it bears repeating:
Jimmy was a young caterpillar who lived in a beautiful, lush garden. One day, a caterpillar friend visited from another garden. “Jimmy!” the friend explained, “Your garden home is so beautiful! Mine is so dry and barren – I wish it could look like yours.” “It can,” replied Jimmy enthusiastically. “I have great power– I can make it rain!”
“Really? How?” asked Jimmy’s friend, eager to hear Jimmy’s secret. With great excitement, Jimmy answered, “It’s easy! Every morning I wake up and say, ‘Rain, come today!’ and within a very short time, a beautiful rain pours down on me and my garden. Then, in the evening as the sun is setting, I say it again, and sure enough, another cool, refreshing rain showers me.”
“Watch!” continued Jimmy, “I’ll show you. ‘Rain, come today,’” he said with confidence. Then, the two friends waited eagerly. A few minutes later, as they walked together in the garden, water drops began to fall on their heads. “See! I told you!” said Jimmy proudly. His friend just smiled, but – being the good friend that he is — he chose not to point out to Jimmy the sprinkler head with a timer that they had just passed. Just let him keep believing that he’s in control, thought Jimmy’s friend with amusement, as they continued to stroll together.
How often in our lives are we “Jimmy”? How easy it is to fall into the trap of believing that we are in control, when it is really only an “illusion of control.” The only One truly in control is God. And yet, don’t we scramble, fret, obsess, fix, manipulate, worry, and strive as if everything depended on us? What a heavy, unnecessary burden to put on ourselves! When my husband was in active addiction, I earnestly believed that I could “control” his drinking – by hiding his alcohol or pain pills, constantly checking up on him, limiting his money, turning on the tears, and making ridiculous demands and ultimatums. When he didn’t drink for a day, I convinced myself that all my efforts had “worked”—which only reinforced my “illusion of control” and kept me in my crazy cycle of insanity. And, when my husband inevitably took the next drink, I was convinced that I just needed to try harder yet to “regain control” once again. It was exhausting – and it didn’t work. Only when I opened my eyes to see that God is in control – not me – did I find peace and the true answers to my problems that I was so desperately seeking.
You don’t need an alcoholic spouse to get sucked into the insanity of the “illusion of control.” When life hits us hard – a divorce, a serious illness, a car accident, a failed business, the death of a loved one, a lost job, a broken relationship, – it is our natural instinct to search desperately for a way to “fix” it, to reverse the misfortune, to make something happen, to “regain control of our lives,”– and all too often we do even more damage to ourselves (and others) in this futile quest. Perhaps, instead, we would do better to take a breath and surrender to the One who is really in control. There is tremendous freedom, peace, and rest in “letting go and letting God.” It’s not easy – but it makes far more sense than spinning your wheels exerting unnecessary energy and angst every day for nothing more than an “illusion.” Don’t be a Jimmy – recognize where your true Power is.