Today is Thursday, March 19. We are on the 23rd day of our 40-day Lent journey. Every day we have new people joining us from around the world. More than a thousand people have visited our website, from every continent except Antarctica! My name is Gina, and I will share the scripture, reflection and prayer with you as we come together as one in spirit, if not in person.
Theme: Our God is uncontrollable and uncontainable
Scripture: Luke 2: 41-52 (The Message)
Many parents will understand the anguish that Joseph and Mary must have felt in this story. They had traveled a whole day on foot, thinking their 12-year-old son was in the same caravan, in the safe company of one of their relatives. Then, that night, they found they had carelessly left their child behind, alone, in a big city overflowing with pilgrims and tourists from all over the nation.
Then there was the anguish they endured having to spend another day on the road to get back to Jerusalem, before they could even start searching for him. Can you imagine, three days and three nights, searching a crowded city for your lost child? Was he terrified and alone? Did he wonder how his own parents could have abandoned him like this?
Maybe they were thinking, “We had one job. We were asked to raise our people’s Messiah. We just had to keep him safe and alive until he became an adult, and now this!”
They must have felt like the worst parenting failures in human history.
Then, the relief that must have poured through their bodies when they finally thought to check the temple on the third day: There He sat, calmly chatting with the religious leaders as if there was nothing more important in that moment.
So like a child to be oblivious about how much he had terrified and worried his parents.
If Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t they go to the temple first? Why did they wait to check there until the third day? Could they have ended their agony much sooner if they had known to look for Jesus where he was most likely to be found?
In one of the most astonishing role reversals in history, our God, whom we call Father, for a brief moment chose to be a human child who obeyed human parents. So in this way, God knows what it’s like for us to be His children.
However, our God is not a child or someone within our power to control. We did not create God. Our God created us! He is our parent. (But not as limited as a human parent, because He is the creator of all that exists!)
This story invites us to ask ourselves some questions:
Can we control God? Do we try to?
Do we sometimes feel that when we want God, He is nowhere to be found? Do we look for Him in the wrong places? Or that He should be where we want Him to be, when we want Him to be there, doing what we think He should be doing?
Our God is uncontrollable and uncontainable. And when it comes right down to it, when we are in the most frightening, uncertain or most challenging circumstances, that is the God we need. Only such a being is capable of handling our worst problems.
When we first confront the reality that God is not a being we can control or predict, or even understand, it might be upsetting. Joseph and Mary were terrified and upset for a lot of reasons. One reason was realizing they had lost control of their child. Another was fearing that tragic harm might come to him, or that they could lose him forever.
We are used to striving for control, and whenever we don’t feel in control, our first response may be to feel scared or angry. Won’t a tragedy occur, or couldn’t we lose something precious, if we aren’t in control of everything at all times?
Control is always an illusion. It can also be an idol (which by its very nature is an illusion). We exhaust ourselves grasping for this illusion of control when we will never have it. We become like a dog that chases its tail. That dog will never catch its tail, no matter how hard it tries.
But, if we are willing to release our insistence on control, we can find comfort – and rest – knowing the God we worship is more than great enough, powerful enough, wise enough, loving enough, and knowledgeable enough to care for us.
That’s not frightening. That’s wonderful! That’s a relief! That’s rest!
Let’s rest in the beautiful wonder of knowing, as the English saying goes, “We can let go and let God.”
- Is it possible that you are worshipping an image of God that you have made smaller than He really is, so that you can feel in control? Have you treated God like a child you try to order around? Apologize to Him now and ask Him to help you see God a bit more as He really is, and not simply as you imagine Him to be.
- What is one area where you might be holding tightly to the illusion of control? Ask God to help you release it to Him.
- Do you feel tired or frustrated in your efforts to try and gain control over something? Ask God to give you the rest of releasing it to Him.
Our good, amazing and uncontrollable God:
King David wrote about Your greatness in Psalm 8 when he said,
“I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?”
And yet You are deeply concerned with us, with our hurts and fears, our anxieties, pain, and grief. In Your love, take control of everything for us, so that we can rest and trust You, as a child trusts her parent to care for all her needs and to comfort her when she’s afraid or feels lost.
Thank You for being so powerful, so knowledgeable, so wise, so loving, that we could not possibly contain You or control You. We are like specks of dust in comparison to Your awesome greatness. And even more like dust are our problems, compared to You. That’s good news for us.
Thank You that we can release our futile and exhausting efforts at grasping for control and let You take over. Thank You for the rest You offer us in that.
Letting go can be so hard for us, even almost impossible. As the desperate parent cried out to Jesus in Mark 9, “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more!”
We pray all this in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Today’s additional scripture readings are from: