In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald describes the character Nick Carraway as someone who “wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.” Trying to operate the world as Nick did only works if you are a librarian—demanding that people stand in certain lines, living life by unmovable due dates, having everyone and everything in your life stacked neatly and under your thumb. This doesn’t work real well, however, if you want to follow Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t work on our timetables. He doesn’t check with us before he makes decisions. Following Jesus is more like driving a taxicab than being a librarian—you never know who you’ll meet or where you’ll go next. Following Jesus means giving up control. It means pulling your life over to the side of the road, tossing your keys to Jesus, hopping into the passenger’s seat, and saying, “You take it from here.”
This is the only way you’re going to see God at work in your life, because God can’t work in a situation until we get out of the way. As long as we continue to meddle with a problem and try to fix it ourselves, we haven’t turned it over to God so he can work on it.
Last summer our family vacationed in southeastern Colorado. One bright afternoon my wife said, “Let’s go white-water rafting!” Now, if you haven’t guessed by now, I might as well tell you: I’m a chicken… one hundred percent wimp. White-water rafting is not on my list of the top ten things I want to do before I die. My family was set on the excursion, however, so I reluctantly agreed to go. At the river we joined our group, and our guides put us in wet suits and gave us instructions for the trip. “This is a class III river. You need to know what to do when you fall out of the boat.” I raised one eyebrow and turned around and stared at my wife.
Once on board I nonchalantly asked our guide, a left-over hippie from the sixties, if anyone had ever fallen out of one of his rafts. “Sure,” he quickly replied, “I lost a group of Japanese tourists a while back. They were fine, though. I picked them up about a mile down river, a little disoriented. You’ll be fine today. No worries.”
Wonderful. For the next fifteen minutes, I was a wreck. Not my five-year-old. Not my nine-year-old. Not my eleven-year-old. Not my sadistic wife. Just me, a wreck. Then something happened. With each wave I enjoyed the ride a little bit more. I began to pay attention to the scenery: steep canyon walls, layers of deep red rock, and beautiful species of birds I had never seen before. By the end of the trip, I was giving high fives and hollering like a college student at a football game. “I told you this would be awesome,” I told my wife triumphantly.
Do you know what’s interesting? Not once did I ever lean over to our guide and say, “I’ll take over from here.” Why? Because I knew the most experienced person in that raft was calling the shots. As a result I could rest and enjoy the ride. It was bumpy. I was scared to death at first, but the ride was much easier than if I had been the captain.
The old bumper sticker “Let go and let God” might sound cliché and cheesy, but the saying is true. Some people can’t see God at work in their lives, not because they lack faith but because they insist on having too much control.
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