My femur was splintered, the result of trying to turn a ball hit into the gap into a triple during a church softball game. I had rounded first and stumbled. Falling forward I felt the worst pain of my life. As I instinctive reached back to grab my right leg, I faceplanted into the concrete-like infield and writhed in excruciating pain. At that moment, I had lost control of my life. An ambulance was called; I was lifted onto a stretcher and went for a ride to the hospital. There I was placed in traction in order to stabilize my broken leg, awaiting surgery the next morning.
My lack of control was made clear when a freshly degreed nurse decided she didn’t like the way my traction was set up. It was not how she had learned to set it up. She told me she was going to change it. I begged her not to. Any movement at all would radiate pain throughout my body. Just leave it, I told her. She was taken aback by my resistance and hesitated, but then plowed ahead with her plan. She took hold of my foot and began to lift it. Immediately I screamed and my quadricep began violently spasming. She froze. I shook and moaned. She finally grabbed the phone and paged the doctor. He told her to not touch the traction, and she eased my leg back into its original position.
Twelve hours later, as two nurses were preparing me for surgery, they thought it would be a good idea for me to urinate before being wheeled into the operating room. In their judgment, I would likely have more chance of success if I could sit up just a bit more. So, they hatched what they thought to be a brilliant plan—grab the sheet I was lying on and pull it toward the head of the bed and, apparently, me along with it. As I did the night before, I begged them to forgo this attempt, explaining that my leg could not be jostled without terrible pain. Again, my plea was ignored and agonizing screams soon followed.
Ever since that time more than 30 years ago, I have struggled with being a very nice patient when in the hospital. I have an overwhelming urge to be in control and I will assert myself to that end as often as I can. I just have a hard time trusting medical professionals.
I think the need for control is centered in our lack of trust. When we’ve been burned by people or situations, we are reluctant to place ourselves again in what we perceive as vulnerable situations. We are determined to maintain control. If you have been sexually assaulted, you are likely to be on high alert in any isolated situation with another person. If you have been hurt by friends, you are likely to struggle with developing trusting relationships. Your guard is up out of fear of being hurt again.
Experts will tell us it is good to maintain control in order to prevent being hurt by others. They will encourage setting up boundaries for relationships and social activities. Taking control, they say, is good. So, we do.
The problem comes when we take that same approach in our relationship with God. We are told throughout the Scriptures that he can be trusted, that he is for us and not against us. However, so many of us enter our relationship with the Lord with significant trust issues. Thus, we put up boundaries. We love him, but we don’t fully trust him.
One of the things I often encounter with college students is their desire to figure out their future after college. They have ideas and, usually, their parents have ideas of what that should look like. Very few are willing to leave it to the Lord to direct them. Instead, they set up boundaries as to what they will do and where they will do it. They’re willing to do this, but not that. They’re willing to live in this state, but not in another. I will often encourage them to trust God and be willing to go wherever he leads them. Most of the time, that evokes a nervous response, and I can imagine the wheels turning in their heads. Where might I end up, in a third world country or clear out on the West Coast? What if he wanted me to take a much lower paying job?
If truth be known, I don’t think we’re much different. Are we open to what the Lord may have for us, not only in the future, but in the present as well? I have a friend who, with her husband, befriended an elderly woman with no family. They met her at their church. They learned later that she was about to be put out of her apartment and had no place to go. She told me they felt the Lord telling them they should take her in. Yet, there were several legitimate reasons for them not to do this. First, they have six children living at home. Accommodating this woman would require rearranging where they slept. They also homeschool, so the kids would be at home most of the day. And they would be taking on the responsibility of caring for the woman. She would not merely be a houseguest. Yet, despite these logical reasons, they trusted the Lord’s will and had her move in. Recently, we received a holiday letter updating their lives over the past year, and they noted how enjoyable it was to have this woman in their home.
There are many opportunities to trust the Lord’s leading and receive his blessings, but our distrust often gets in the way. We feel much more comfortable in control, living our lives by sight, rather than living them by faith and taking a risk on the Lord. However, in doing so, we miss out on a richer journey in life. The Lord said he came that we “might have life and have it abundantly,” but we can only truly experience it when we fully trust him to guide us in living it. Attempting to control his work in our lives by setting up boundaries will deprive us of what he desires for us. We may feel in control, but it will be our great loss in the end.
© Jim Musser 2019