Saturday, April 18, 2009

Control and Pride

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller -- I love that book!  I'm reading it right now and learning so much!  The author does a nice job of explaining the prodigal son parable in a very new (to me) and necessary way (click here to read the parable).  He discusses how we normally hear about (or focus on) the rebellious son who leaves then returns to his forgiving father.  It is a reflection of God's love for us, true, but the other half of the story is just as important, says Keller.  What about the jealous older brother who played by the rules and was upset that his father never threw him a party for being the good kid? That's the part Keller says is often overlooked; that's the part Jesus wanted the pharisees to hear because it applied to them.   The prodigal son came back with an apologetic heart; the older son was too proud to admit that he wasn't as perfect as he thought.  We are either one or the other in this life.

Jose and I have started reading Job together.  This is going to sound crazy, but even though I've heard the story of Job many times before, I've never read it for myself!  I enjoy reading it with Jose because he sometimes catches things that I don't, and I understand the message of the story a bit better, as a result.  

The part in the first chapter that caught our attention the most is when Job finds out his children and animals have just died and (v. 20-21) At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:  'Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'

Job reduces himself to nothing.  Instead of acting as if he is entitled or worthy of an explanation or apology, he humbles himself before God.  Job also relinquishes control (Jose pointed that out to me) and doesn't compare himself to anyone who might have more.  The shaving of his head might represent a sort of catharsis, but it also represents letting everything go.  In a way, it's as if Job is also saying Take even the hairs on my head and my clothing, I give it all over to you, God.  This is an act that a prideful heart, like that of a pharisee, can't take part in.

I'm not like Job.  At all :P.  When things don't go the way I want them to, I try to sort things out on my own and then I remember to pray.  To top it off, I usually mumble and grumble before handing it over to God.  Prayer is usually preceded by unanswerable questions or dumb remarks, like "Why?", "I don't get it" or "Not now!'.  As if I'm entitled to know.  As if I, a flawed human, could've planned it out better than He has.  My pride turns me into the Chihuahua who thinks they're a Great Dane.

I'm going through a situation right now that many might find unfair, as I have felt it is many times, to be completely honest.  It has me asking some of those silly questions and comments (don't worry--it's not as hopeless as I'm making it seem).  I'll reveal the details in a later post, but this is an issue I have to bring to God on a daily basis.  I notice that when I don't, I tend to obsess over it and try to control the situation myself, even though I'm very limited in what I can do.  Though the actual circumstance might be foreign to you, I know we've all wanted to have control over the source of our worries. Ironically, worry in itself is a dysfunctional form of control (one that I struggle with!), my mom mentioned this to me once.  

It's as if I think that gnawing on a thought or concern long enough is going to improve the situation somehow.  When I try to control a situation, I'm taking hold of the reigns and basically telling God he can't do it and that it's my turn now.  Isn't this essentially the definition of pride?  Setting ourselves up as God's equal, or much worse, his superior?  Though I'm not sporting a purple robe and reciting scriptures verbatim in Hebrew, I might as well be; my behavior is pretty much that of a modern day pharisee.  I become the older brother who asks his father where's my party? when things don't go my way.

Here's a good excerpt from the book that applies:
Why is the older son so furious?  He is especially upset about the cost of all that is happening.  He says 'You've never given me even a goat for a party, how dare you give him the calf?'... He's adding things up.  [The older son then says] 'I've worked myself to death and earned what I've got, but my brother has done nothing... where's the justice in that?' That is why the elder brother refers to his record. 'I have never disobeyed you!  So I have rights' he is saying. 'I deserve to be consulted about this!  You have no right to make these decisions unilaterally.'

That's pretty much my line to God when I'm frustrated about how things are panning out.  The elder son felt powerless (as I do), and compared to his father (who represents God in this story), he very much was.  Keller explains how Jesus leaves the parable open in the end, the father extends an invitation to the older son to attend his younger brother's party, and it's up to the older son to accept.  I too have to decide if I am going to accept what God has offered and is perfecting for me in his time or if I'm going to make my own plan, which will likely end in failure and more disappointment.


Tiffany said...

Hi Sophie--I'm glad to have found my way back to your blog :) I've been meaning to read that book, too. Thank you for reminding me of it! And I very much appreciate your thoughts about it. I can definitely relate in trying to give control over to God in many situations.

Sophie said...

Thanks, Tiffany :)! I think you'll really enjoy the book, it's a good one. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Post a Comment

Thanks for dropping by :)!


Template by Suck my Lolly