Friday, June 13, 2008

In Control

Americans tend to value independence and self-reliance. We like to believe we are in control of the situations in which we find ourselves. We chart our own courses, determine our own destinies. Children are taught that they can become anything they want to be. Good things can happen when progress is not hindered by irrational fear or unhealthy expectations.

But I propose that such teaching is inadequate. While it would be foolish to flee to the other end of the spectrum and ignore the impact each person has through his or her own decisions, I suspect we have focused so much on what we could do that we neglect what we should do. Perhaps admiration of self-direction has drowned out a sense of calling and of purpose. I think we're in danger of missing out on what we're really created for.

Last Sunday's lectionary texts were from Genesis 12:1-9; Psalm 33:1-12; Romans 4:13-25; and Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26. These paint a picture of what it means to trust God rather than relying on one's own thoughts.

"The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'
'I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3)

Imagine that. Abram was told to leave familiar surroundings, culture, family, friends. And why? To go somewhere else. And why? Because that was the instruction he received from God. What would he do there? That was pretty iffy. When Abram chose to obey, it was not the humanly logical, reasonable decision; it was a big step into the unknown. But Abram (Abraham) "did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Romans 4:20-21). Now, thousands of years later, we see how God has worked through human history to bring about the blessing He had declared to Abraham.

I am glad Abram followed in faith.

"The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalm 33:10-11)

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