During this Lenten season, Christians around the world are giving up things— chocolate, television, fast food. We are giving up those temptations closest to us, willingly distancing ourselves from temporal pleasures to draw closer to Christ and his sufferings.

We are abstaining, fasting from the familiar to see more clearly the mystery of God’s love in Christ and through his ministry. We are practicing spiritual discipline, vowing to turn our attention inward. We are focusing on what really matters, affirming the adage that “only what we do for Christ will last.”

It is a time of surrender and release from our temporal satisfactions so that we might receive more of the expansive and eternal reality that is God. Our lives become white flags, surrendering all that we are to accept the gravity of all that God is both in Christ and in us.

Jesus gave his life and in gratitude, I gave up chocolate year after year. Frankly I gave it up because I am allergic to it. I did it because it was good for me not because it was good for my relationship with God.

Might I suggest that we give up something more transformative, that is our will to self- govern and to direct the affairs of others? Let’s give up control for Lent.

This is harder than turning off the television or turning over our plate. It is easier to give up food than the fantasy of control.

We know that it’s not good for our spiritual lives. But we want control anyway.

I have surmised that humanity’s greatest fear is not of failure, public speaking, or heights. It’s not being buried alive, getting older or dying alone. We fear this more than spiders or snakes.

Our greatest fear is that we will lose control. We are afraid to relinquish our right to rule, to determine the outcome— even if only in our minds.

We work so hard to appear we have it all together. We say all the right things at the right time as we smile and shake hands with the right people so we can mingle in the right social circles.

This is done to ensure we can move into the right neighborhoods to send our children to the right schools so they can learn to say all the right things at the right time too.

“Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of (humans),” R. C. Sproul, a Calvinist theologian, observed. Sure, we say that God is sovereign, that God is in control, but we want to make sure that everything goes according to our plans.

We profess that God is capable, but it won’t be done right if we don’t do it. We believe that God is eternal, but time is running out. If the truth be told, we don’t really want to leave it up to chance or God.

“There’s a certain learned passivity about the spiritual life that is hard to program and hard to make popular,” Eugene Peterson surmised. “People who give leadership in spiritual direction, the good ones, that’s basically what they’re doing: they’re trying to train us and teach us how not to be in control of our lives; to enter into what God is doing already.”

But, for so many of us, it is just the opposite. We want God to get with our program, to follow our lead, to sit back and let us take care of things, that is until things fall apart.

Then, we very readily and very quickly give up control. We find our note and join in with the hymnist singing, “I surrender all.”

Deep down, we know that we make poor rulers, that no matter our position or possessions, none of us really have control. And even when we convince ourselves that we are in control, our reign does not last long.

It ends the moment we begin to worry. Doubt quickly overthrows us.

Suffering easily dethrones us. Any of life’s unfortunate truths— a dying parent, a sick child, a troubled marriage, a pink slip— will reveal our self- deception. Unable to change any of these circumstances, we will accept that we are not in control.

Some of us are suffering from control fatigue. We are simply tired of acting as if we are in control and just want to let go. Well, this is the season to do it.

Jesus demonstrated this trust and release of control often in his public ministry. His declaration while praying in the garden of Gethsemane is one of the most memorable.

He struggled but finally relented, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). I wonder what would happen if we repeated after him.

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