Matthew 16:21-28 (MSG)
You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat
21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!” But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? “Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”
I am a stubborn person, fiercely independent and find it hard to let people help. Anyone else like that? I can hear the hands raising sheepishly as I type this because — let's face it — we like to be in control. I’m not as bad as some people but that’s not good either! I was brought up with the ‘You want it, you earn it’ mentality or, when I was sick, ‘You can walk can’t you!’ I have worked since I was 15 and I always had the mentality that you earn what you work for and being busy is the key. Always busy.
This mentality crept into how I did ministry and for some (if not a lot of us) that is a similar experience. I found it very hard to say no and would always compare myself to peers in a similar field. Saying that I worked over 60 hours in one week felt like a badge of honour. I felt guilty when I took time off and, truthfully, didn’t have good boundaries with regards to ministry because, at the very end of the day, this was MY ministry not GOD’s Ministry. I had taken all that burden onto myself and thought it would be OK to introduce it to everyone as a good way to live! How obnoxious was I?! Get off your high horse Susie!
The reason I tell you this is hopefully becoming clear. Although God worked so much through the work I did (after all, he did sustain me in those times when all I wanted was a mental and emotional time out) I regret not keenly listening to what He actually wanted for me. Being exhausted and running on empty doesn’t help me or anyone else.
It also doesn’t help when we go through times where something traumatic happens, or we are too overwhelmed to even embrace the suffering when it knocks us of our feet. Our emotions are magnified, our mental health is stretched and we haven’t even begun to understand that. It’s not the best way to live.
Jesus knew what he had to do. He was able to take himself away from people if he needed it. He was able to see suffering and come alongside others. In his own life, he knew he had to suffer but he also knew what would happen after. Yes, there were those times while Jesus was being tortured and crucified that he asked his Father, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ but never did he ask for it to stop.
How would life look if we gave up control? For a lot of us, it would be a massive ordeal. But when we give up control that doesn’t mean Jesus is about to hit you with a carnival of mayhem. He understands what you need. When we give away control, we immediately assume that something bad is going to happen; abandonment, neglect, isolation, the fear that God might ask you to go to the furthest tip of the most remote country in the world and set up a ministry there. Remember, He listens and knows everything about you.
We live in a culture that always says you can get what you want if you work for it but what are the things we are working for? If the things we are working for only contribute to our momentary happiness and the things we assume will make our lives the best it will ever be, then who is really in the driver's seat? Is it Jesus? Is it work? Is it power? Is it ego?
Am I willing to give up control? The idea is great but the practice is pretty huge and takes a lot. It's a daily practice and I struggle with it. What I do know is that I have better boundaries now. I try not to compare myself with others. And I don't work 60 hours a week.
Susie Keegan is a creative, a font nerd, a graphic designer and the new Diocesan Youth Officer for the Dublin Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. Use ‘Comic Sans’ in the wrong context and you’ll feel her wrath! Being an author on this blog has really pushed her comfort zone and she is very happy to be part of this community.