Truly, we control very little if anything. Control always seems to be the posture from which our life is lived.
CONTROL: THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN CONDITION
Control – or failure to surrender – has been called the original sin of creation and remains a continual struggle for humankind. Our drive to control is evident in nearly every realm of life – our relationship with God, others and creation. Surrender is difficult, counter-cultural and, in many ways, foreign to human experience.
Jennifer Shaw, a gifted musician, speaker and writer, visited our church earlier this year (http://jennifershaw.com/). She made an emphatic statement that I believe is true: Control is an illusion!
What do you think? You think that you are in control? Yeah, so did I.
I thought I controlled the church, my parishioners, our programs, my family, my life, my God, etc. Turns out, I was wrong.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul pleads with us to continually surrender; hand ourselves over to God; as a living or day-by-day offering.
Paul seems to view surrender as an embodied experience or daily practice/posture. The motivation behind the posture is the grace of God – bestowed in the mercies of Christ – which are to be kept in full view. He calls this posture of daily surrender our reasonable or, better – logical posture before a holy God.
Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, Romans 12:1
In other words, when we recall and remain attentive to the mercy of God, then we are in a position of trust in which we are freed to surrender to Christ. Over time this posture will generate abiding trust in and deep reliance upon God; the context in which control may be relinquished! The relationship between trust and surrender is vital. When we do not surrender to God, we cannot trust in Him. When we do not trust God, we will not surrender to Him. The cycle repeats itself over and over again. The only hope of breaking this cycle is to nurture a daily rhythm, practice or posture in which we orient our entire being toward the mercies of God in Christ!
Mercy – What a beautiful, yet often misused word!
As a child of South Carolina, I grew up hearing the old-timers use this word, often. Many times in reference to me. It often went something like this (said in a deep, southern draw),
“Mercy, that boy just doesn’t think before he acts,” or
“Mercy, child, what in tarrrr-nation is wrong with you,?” or
“Good Lord, have mercy, son (you can fill in the rest of that one!) . . .
I may be wrong, but I don’t think that’s how Paul uses the term. Since my personal history with the term is colored by its misuse, let’s take a moment and define the term. Mercy – kindness, compassion, forgiveness, goodness toward us, and or God’s love reaching down to us (yeah, that’s not how the old-timers used the term!). In other words,
The mercy of God is uniquely related to His action on our behalf. Mercy is the moment God does for us that which we are unable to do for ourselves; again and again and again!
EMBODYING MERCY – AWAKENING TO LIFE!
Why, I wonder, would Paul urge us to embody the mercies of Christ?
Because when we embody the mercies of Christ, we experience transformation in Christ. Transformation in Christ enlightens us and directs us toward His presence in the midst of all things.
Further still, in Romans 12:1 – 2, Paul’s illustrates a firm grasp of human nature. He understands that we ‘learn by doing’ and that we are ‘shaped by our practices.’ Learning by doing is so central to the human experience that I am shocked by the resistance to this truth in modern times. Indeed, we continue to spout about cliches such as, ‘you think your way into behavior,’ or, ‘right belief will produce right behavior.’ Experience and ancient wisdom teach otherwise. One writer has said, we don’t think our way into right behavior, we behave our way into right thinking.
Spiritual practices are designed to ‘create space for God’ where God’s power can transform our experiences in life and the world around us (i.e, the renewing of our mind). Paul then affirms that we may know God’s will, way, plan, and desires.
The imagery is vibrate – indicating that God’s will becomes translucent in the midst of life. In these moments of life, the hope of the fullness of God is attainable. We can see where God is, what He is up to, and agree with Him. Ultimately it is a journey on which we can discern God in all things, or see God in all things and saying yes to Him.
A progressive, maturing and vibrant journey with Christ enables one to hear the faint whisper of God in the midst of an otherwise chaotic and turbulent sea of our life!
Perhaps a picture will help. In the image below, I attempt to capture what I call the journey toward a God Awakened Life. The ‘cycle of wholeness’ pictured here accentuates the repeatable process of living a fully human and God Awake life:
Notice the organic yet progressive nature of the cycle. One begins by keeping the mercies of God in view. This posture enables us to practice habits of surrender and trust, which further enable us to break sin patterns of distorted desires – many of which are entrenched and rooted in our defense systems.
As this God-awake life posture takes root, then we can perceive His continual and abiding presence in our midst. We can, as the text says – see God in all things and say Yes to His good will (discernment). Our practices then further enable and encourage us to keep the mercies of God in full view
ONE SIMPLE STEP ON THE JOURNEY TOWARD A FULLY AWAKE LIFE
Ever wonder why you have so much trouble seeing, perceiving or discerning the presence of Christ in your midst?
The outcome of my day-to-day walk – one in which I recall, remember and embody the mercies of God – is a heightened awareness of God’s presence in the midst of every moment, obstacle or opportunity. I would characterize it as a journey. It begins as all journeys do. One step at a time.
Begin by embodying the mercies of Christ on a daily basis (there are practices/disciplines on this site that might be of use, https://www.disruptusrenovatus.com/my-top-three-links-for-spiritual-formation-resources/ .
Start slowly, with this question.
When did I notice God – in His great mercy – present to me this day?
I encourage you to reflect on the question at least 3 or four times a day. First ask it the moment your feet hit the floor. Next consider pausing before for meals. Finally, as you rest your head on your pillow at night!
Consider the following paraphrase of Romans 12:1 – 2. Perhaps you will find it meaningful on your journey this week!
Disrupting to Renew!