What Do You Control?
Updated: Jan 11
How much of your life do you believe you have control over? Oh, I know you glibly say, "God is in control," but what is your core belief?
I was reading Romans 9 and that chapter is kinda hard to understand so I was reading a commentary about it (probably a first for me). It talks about Jacob and Esau and how God told Rebecca before they were born that the elder would serve the younger. Then there's this verse:
Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
The commentary says Rebecca and Jacob really didn't need their devious scheme. It was not Rebecca's willing (the fact that she loved Jacob best), or Jacob's running, that got him that blessing.
Well, I don't know about you, but I think I do quite a bit of running and willing.
It seems like when you first get married there are so many decisions to make. You have this new person to dream dreams with, and you feel it's all up to you to create this amazing life.
Well, on rare occasions maybe things do work out fairly easily. But sometimes they don't.
Zèzè has told me so many times that my frantic attitude toward things I can't control is from growing up with money. I vehemently denied it... I was just trying to use my head. Make a game plan. Open doors, or maybe crash them down. Whatever, what's the difference. Because seriously everyone deserves this "thing" I want; it's mine to take. Only a year later, my feet a bit sore from the running, and my fists a bit bruised from banging on closed doors, and ya, I admit he's right.
Because here's the deal: In America, there are so many things you do have control over. You can buy health and car insurance. It's proper and lawful and smart and protects you. You can make sure your gas level doesn't go under a quarter of a tank. You get a Sam's card and a deep freeze and buy food in bulk to save money. And then this money goes into a magic place called a savings account. All this makes you a good, upright citizen looking after you and your children's future.
Well, let me tell you a bit about life in a third world country.
Remember this describes 77% of the world's population!
Insurance? Yes, in Haiti car insurance is mandatory... as income for the government. To the person buying it, it's worthless. Hit and run is instinctual and not unlawful. I don't think health insurance exists, even though medical is lots more affordable than in the USA and there are a lot of mission funded clinics. If you do have to go to the hospital, you buy everything needed for the procedures. Someone from our congregation just the other week needed a procedure done to drain fluid from his abdomen. His son drove from pharmacy to pharmacy for a whole afternoon and never found the kind of syringe the doctor had ordered him to buy. The next day, they went to another hospital and that doctor made a different one work. Same with car parts. You consult with the mechanic, then he gives you a list of parts to round up, which may take a whole day of searching and be more expensive that what you thought. So you're blocked. Then when your car is fixed, you have to find a place to buy a couple gallons of gas... Anyone with a car or moto needs a contact to by gas "nan lari" or in the street these days. These guys brave the hours of waiting at pumps with gas cans, then sell it to you bit by bit, obviously adjusting the price to make their profit. But sometimes it's your only choice, and you're thankful for that two gallons to get you to work or keep a tap-tap in the street for the day. And about freezers, well they take electricity. The town at most gives electricity for about eight hours every night. People buy little solar panels and bring them out in the sun during the day then use them to charge their phones or run a light bulb, but that's about the extent of it. Your fridge turns to kind of an ice chest, insulating your semi-cold food for the day and obviously running whenever there's power. (This is actually a legit business that can support a family: freezing chicken legs and soft drinks and selling them to street merchants every morning!) Reality is that most Haitians are forced to buy food day by day. No choice.
So, that sounds like a huge negative picture, doesn't it? It is. And so many times I think of my American passport hiding away in our little cupboard and just wonder why. Why was I born in the 23% instead of the 77%? Why does God allow the world to be so unfair?
Other times I'm jealous of my Haitian friends' mentality. The money I was going to use to stock up on chicken legs this morning was ahem... not in appearance, in fact, maybe due to the fact that we pigged out on street food after teaching yesterday evening. And ya, I maybe rolled my eyes a bit. And on the way out the door, my husband looked at me and said, "Meat is like that. Sometimes you just don't have it, and then when you do again, you have it in abundance." He said it like he kind of wondered how I had missed a basic life fact.
I feel like I did miss a basic lesson. Some things you just don't have. Some places you just can't go. Life is full of no's. I don't feel like I always had everything I wanted in America, but in all honesty usually if I didn't have something and I really wanted it, I could at least make a plan of how I could get it in the future. And so I thought I controlled what I got. I thought it was me that was smart enough to figure life out.
And here, not always, but as a general rule, I don't see things exactly like that. When someone finds some vehicle part at a low price in a couple hours, I tend to see it as a small miracle and thank God that he helped them find it! My husband's prayers I thought at first were long. He thanks God for a lot of basic stuff and prays for a lot of basic stuff too - things that growing up I might have not thought to talk to God about. In all truth, I really didn't associate God with being in control of those things. But he is. He's in control of your money and your food and your job and future. Every little thing you have, God decided to give it to you.
So what I hope is that I learn that lesson in the smaller things, maybe the bigger things will be easier to stay calm about. God loves to take us into situations where we have to realize we have no control. Life and death, who flawlessly gives birth to a perfectly healthy child and who loses one or can't have children at all, if your child will decide to give their heart to God or if they will make choices that break your heart, your health, a broken relationship with a friend you trusted - you will never control any of these things. Material blessings may let you think you can control your life, especially if you live a relatively privileged life... but matters of the heart, and life itself, God will never let even let you even imagine you can control it.
Our part is to at least try to embrace those uncertain times. They make us start to understand how small we are. And maybe then when we say God is in control, we will finally truly believe it in our hearts.