July 18, 2023

From the Rector…

I was in the grocery store the other morning and noticed a little boy and his babysitter interacting on the cookie aisle. The little boy was being a bit impish and inching away from the babysitter. She called him by name and told him it was not nice for him to move so far away from her and asked him to come back. In that moment, I could see the child trying to make a decision—would he obey her and come back to her, or would he test the limits and see if he could get any further away? He decided to test the limits and scooted a few feet further away. She called him again in a patient voice and he moved even further away. She tried positive reinforcement and then bribery. Finally, she broke down and threatened to tell his mother about his behavior. Nothing worked. Instead, the more frustrated and threatening she became, the more strong-willed he became—it was a lose-lose scenario.

We find ourselves in these types of scenarios in life. We don’t like to be controlled. The little boy was controlling the emotions of his sitter and doing so quite successfully. The sitter was trying to control the little boy’s behavior and failing miserably. In the end, both were frustrated as the sitter left her groceries in the aisle and grabbed hold of the child, marching a now crying little boy from the store.

We are resistant to the tactics used to control us from a young age. Over the course of our lives the tactics may change but our resistance continues. Most of the time, we aren’t consciously aware of how others are trying to control us or, at least, exercise power over us, but we still resist it. And just like the little boy and his babysitter in the grocery store—neither party wins. All we really do is get frustrated with one another, weaken any trust that might have existed between us, and cause a lot of damage to the relationships around us.

There are lots of relationships in scripture that suffer from a desire to control another. The one that immediately springs to mind is King Saul and David. Their relationship started so well—as Saul became increasingly diseased in body and mind, David brought him comfort and companionship. But Saul wanted to control David. He saw the talent and skill of David. He knew God favored David. He tried to control David—married him to his daughter and kept an eye on him. The more he attempted to exercise power over David, the more fractured their relationship became. The more fractured their relationship became, the weaker their trust was for one another devolving into a complete break in relationship—Saul losing his mind and his throne and David losing his wife and best friend, Saul’s son. When we try to control one another, everyone loses.

There was another Saul who wanted to exercise power and control over others. He resisted the Jesus Movement of the first century, killing the followers of Christ and causing general unrest and upheaval amongst the community in Jerusalem. It was not until he had a vision of God asking him why he was doing these things and blinding him, that he was finally able to see the damage that dominance causes to oneself and others. He had a conversion experience and changed his name to Paul. And his conversion was not that he believed in God—he was already a good Jew—it was his ability to release his resistance and need for power and control and allow God’s work through Jesus Christ to unfold. He didn’t understand it, he didn’t know where it might lead, but he did discover a joy in life that he had not known before and he paved the way for you and me to become Christians.

We can hold on too tightly or we can lean into the trust we have in the Lord and allow ourselves to release the power, control, and domination that feeds our egos and restricts us from discovering the beauty, the joy, and the possibility of simply being. We get to pick which Saul we want to be. When we hold on too tight to power or our need for control, it is impossible to open our hand to receive all that God desires to give us. Like the little boy and his babysitter, we come up empty and frustrated—our purposes and our relationships wanting. But if we can release and receive the promise of God that is always a path to renewal, we just might find a greater sense of joy, purpose, and hope.  

Light and Life,