Not being in control

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A few weeks ago I heard Stephen Cottrell, who’s going to be the new Archbishop of York, talking about doing the pilgrimage to Santiago. He explained that because of the uncertainties of each day, he never knew in the morning where he would be sleeping that night. I wondered how I would cope with that. I like to plan my journeys carefully – and maybe my life too.

The uncertainties were even greater for Abraham. He is told by God, ‘Go from your country and your people to a land I will show you.’ No map, no directions – just set out in trust. And by the way, even though you’re seventy five and have no children, I will make you into a great nation. He didn’t know where he was going, how or when he was going to get there, and what would happen when he arrived.

There may be some echoes with how we feel at the moment. We do know that we’re heading into something which will affect our life in big ways for a while – but we don’t know when it’s all going to happen, or what are the steps that will be taken, or how it will impact on us and those we love.

I find myself compulsively checking the news on my phone, and checking my emails to find out what’s been decided. I’m not good at just waiting to see how things will develop.

I’m reading a book during Lent which takes to story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness and imagines what the taunts might for us now, and what the response might be. A few days ago the taunt was entitled ‘You are in control of nothing’:

You imagine that you can control your life.

You set out each day with a strong sense of where you are going

and of how you will get there.

But your day is thrown off balance by the tone of a comment,

by a difficult conversation, or by something in the news.

You are in control of nothing.

But the realization that you control nothing

– or very little – may be an uncomfortable gift.

What is your task?

It is not to control life

but to learn how to be in it, to walk through it, to engage with it

– with grace, with love, and with hope.

Don’t try to control your life.

Rather, give attention to how you are within it,

each season,

each day,

each moment.


From Wilderness Taunts by Ian Adams

Can not being in control be a gift? Abram is told that his journey of faith will become a means of blessing. By stepping out in trust he became open to the gift of a new relationship with God. God would always be with him, not just in his homeland but wherever he went. There was a new closeness between them.

Could letting go of control be a gift for us too? And even in this difficult and anxious time, can we learn to walk in trust with the God who is always alongside us? 

God who calls us, help us to trust you even when the future is uncertain. Help us to let go of our need to control our life, and rather just to be in it, to walk through it, to engage with it, with grace, with love, with hope…

God who is always in the present, help us to be present to how we are in our life – each season, each day, each moment. And in our awareness, may we recognise how closely you are with us…

God who stepped into an out of control world, be with those who feel frightened at the moment, and those who are living in places affected by the coronavirus, around the world and closer to home – those who are ill and bereaved, those who are caring for others, those whose lives and livelihoods have been overturned. Be with the decision makers, and be with us in the small responses we can make – and help us to trust that wherever this takes us, you will be there with us…

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