Y’all, those are frozen eyelashes. I got this picture on my TimeHop Saturday, and clearly I had gone crazy. I’m starting to think someone must have put something in my Gatorade last year because I still can’t believe I went running in temps cold enough to freeze eyelashes. Talk about a slap in the face. Leave the warm confines of your down comforter at zero dark thirty to go running in single digits, and you’ll feel your cheeks prickle like someone just hit you hard across the face. I got another slap in the face the other day. Reading through my One Year Bible, I stopped suddenly at Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Ouch. Heart prickling.
Paul is writing to the Galatians when he says this, but I can clearly feel God saying it to me. I’m a recovering control-freak which means the following scenario happens a lot. God will show me something He wants me to do. It might be through His Word or the encouragement of a friend or even a dream He has placed on my heart. I start out faith strong. He can do anything. With God nothing is impossible. The same God who split open a sea and took down a wall with trumpets is at work today. I’m relaxed (as relaxed as a recovering control-freak can be) and trusting God to do that which is far beyond my ability.
But then comes the wait. The days that turn into months that turn into years. The prayers that seem unheard. The God who seems to not be listening. The discouragement. The hopeless feeling. The doubt. Maybe I didn’t hear Him correctly. Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe this isn’t worth it. Maybe I should just give up.
There’s a recurring story line snagged throughout my story. I begin with faith and surrender, but when the timeline gets too lengthy or things aren’t going the way that seems to make sense, I wrap my fingers around the situation and give it a good tug. I’m okay believing as long as things are moving at the pace I like and things are headed the way I want them to go. Which is to say that isn’t believing at all. Or it’s believing in me–in my control. I feel like my story has been stuck here for weeks, months even, like a scratched record that just keeps repeating the same few words. I want to throw out spreadsheets and numbers, timelines and possible solutions, and God asks me for surrender. My flesh has answers, but I know from past experience how that will end.
In the verses following Galatians 3:3 Paul reminds us of Abraham and his faith, “He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” The verse that Paul refers to is lifted straight from the pages of Genesis, “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6)
One chapter over we see Sarah’s take on everything. If ever we recovering control-freaks had a Biblical companion, it would be Sarah. Sarah is faced with the prospect of no heirs, and her first response is to solve the problem herself, giving her maidservant Hagar to Abraham so she can build a family through Hagar. That one decision cast waves that still leave their wake today. Then, she gets frustrated when the brilliant scheme backfires and takes out her frustration on the relationships around her. And then when she overhears the Lord tell Abraham he’ll have a son the following year, she laughs. This doesn’t sound like a giggle to me. It sounds like the laugh of a control-freak. A laugh of doubt and skepticism. A laugh that listens to her biological clock instead of the voice of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. And then God asks that piercing question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
And that’s where I’m at today, taking a big gulp and wrestling with that question. This recovering control freak is learning how to replace control with surrender. I look like a toddler learning to walk. I’m falling down and scraping my knees and banging my head and struggling through it all. Am I trying to complete in the flesh what began in the Spirit?
I can stare with clenched teeth at the circumstances that surround me. Or I can surround myself with Scripture and stare at God’s promises. I might not understand His timing or His plan or His direction, but I always have His Word. And His Word tells me time and time again that He is in control. That nothing is impossible with God. That nothing is too hard for Him. That He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. More than I can imagine. I can hold tight to a fistful of peel-and-stick, glow-in-the-dark stars or I can open my hand and let God show me the Milky Way.
“Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.” Galatians 3:3 from The Message
Below are some verses I pray often, especially when I’m struggling with control. These verses really come to life when you understand the context in which they were written, and there is much to learn from the chapters surrounding each one.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, ESV
He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:3, ESV
For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37, ESV