Begin By Giving Up the End
I want to talk about road rage. Briefly. The reason is because today I will make my way toward an intersection near my home where, for whatever reason, people get behind the wheel of a car and immediately become clinically insane. I don't know if it's because of an electro-magnetic field in that area, or perhaps the time of day, who knows but all I know is that you take your own life into your hands in this particular intersection.
It makes me crazy.
I yell at other cars, hover my palm mere centimeters over the horn, ride the brakes and swerve often to try and move through the intersection more quickly. I'm like Joshua on the way to promised land - everyone get out of the way.
What I have found is that a very simple reaction leads to a chain reaction in my heart and mind. Anger rises. Impatience percolates and bubbles and my soul is in a whirlwind. Why? I think it's simple - I want to control how fast I get home. I want to manage the whole process to produce my own outcome.
How many other situations in life do we treat this way? We try to act in such a way as to manage the outcomes of our relationships, experiences, even our relationship with God and it ends up making us anxious and impatient and irritable. Something has to give.
We have to begin by surrendering outcomes.
Frankly, we aren't in charge of the universe and it is a good thing. We would make a mess of it. More than that, when we are in the place of attempting to control outcomes we are short-circuiting our own ability to believe that God is our helper and that He will take care of us. If you have nailed down how everything is going to turn out, why do you have to trust in God to take care of you?
Faith means knowing that the only thing I am in charge of is how I respond to God in the midst of the present moment. The future is "things hoped for, though not yet seen." (Heb. 11).
Second, we have to train ourselves to keep our hands off the outcomes.
There are a whole host of spiritual disciplines that can help us learn to release outcomes - here are just a few of them. Remember, these are not ways that we earn God's favor or our own salvation. Just as practicing golf doesn't win a match but prepares you for the match, spiritual disciplines open up spaces in our lives where God's grace can come in and begin to change our approach to outcomes.
Simplicity- when we learn to live with less, we learn to trust that God will meet our needs. Go into your house today and look around and ask this question: "If I were to have to move tomorrow, what things would I get rid of?" Make a list. Then, get rid of those things. If you wouldn't keep them then, you don't need them now. My wife and I have experienced incredible health and life in de-cluttering our world. Surrendering outcomes means that we don't insulate ourselves with things "just in case."
Fasting*- in the words of Dallas Willard, "Fasting makes us sweet and strong when we don't get what we want." Part of the challenging of surrendering outcomes is learning to be okay when our desired outcome isn't God's desired outcome. We get bitter and angry because we didn't get what we wanted. Fasting teaches us that we don't have to satisfy our every physical need, and so we can surrender our physical health and life to God. Try fasting one meal this week, and make sure to focus on the hunger and pray that God would turn that physical hunger into hunger for Him.
Confession- When we confess to another person, we're giving up on our desire to control the way people think of us. When we have someone we confide in about our failures and struggles with God and others, we find healing by releasing those thoughts and struggles we at one point thought were ours to control and manage. When the secrecy is over, forgiveness and healing come like a flood. Find someone who you trust, who has a vibrant relationship with God, and who is willing to spend some time honestly walking with you through the process of confession and repentance (changing your thinking about the brokenness in your life.)
All of these are training exercises so in those huge moments where faith is needed - faith to believe God is going to come through and that we can rest and have peace regarding the outcomes - and that faith will help us live with crazy obedience in the present time.
*One note on fasting: if you have every dealt with anorexia or bulimia, or any body image issue, I'd recommend fasting something other than food. Try fasting technology, television, etc. for a day instead.