We pray for our lives to go smoothly. We beg God to stay with our plan and keep to our schedule. But sometimes, God wants our plans to fall apart so his plan can go into action.
When I lead a worship service, I plan every detail out specifically. I respect people’s time, so I try to be prepared for any eventuality. But despite my best efforts, I vividly remember a Sunday at my church that was a train wreck. It started badly and then steamrolled out of control as the service progressed.
To begin with, I was running late that morning. When we arrived to set up at the middle school we rent each Sunday, we noticed the media cart with the connections to the auditorium’s video projector was missing. Gone. Nowhere to be found.
Without it, it would be impossible to project the songs we picked onto our video screen and throw a massive monkey-wrench in my worship plan. But this just served as an opportunity to send my incredible volunteers into action. These resourceful men found a way to attach a patch cord directly to the projector mounted in the auditorium’s ceiling. It would have to hang down awkwardly in the center of the front row, but it was certainly better than no video at all. What a team!
As we got into the worship music of the service, some sound system problems suddenly caused the music to boost to an uncomfortable level. When I turned my wireless mic on later at the start of the sermon, feedback filled the room. But that was not the worst crisis to befall me that morning…
My hair gel failed.
To any other pastor, this would be a minor irritation if not left entirely unnoticed. But I have really big, full hair. And only large helpings of hair gel will keep it all in place.
We ship it to my home on trucks in large, industrial-sized containers. I’m only slightly kidding.
So as I’m preaching, my hair begins to fall on my face. Now I’m continually running my fingers through it, trying to get it to stay on my head. Fail. Trying again. Failing again.
Then, my cell phone gives off a little “notification ring.” I laugh to the congregation, “Oh, who would be texting the pastor during his sermon?” I pick it up to read a text from my wife in front of the whole congregation.
“Stop messing with your hair. It looks fine.”
The room explodes with laughter.
Then as I’m getting toward the big conclusion of the message, the power goes out!
You may think this service sounds like one huge disaster, but in the end, it was quite the opposite. When I finished the message and gave an invitation, we saw several people come forward to respond to God’s Word. God answered some prayers that day I had been praying for over a year. Wow!
If you think it’s impossible for God to work through a train wreck, as I’ve described, then I have a message for you.
Dear Control Freak,
Just stop it already. Right now. Seriously.
You know who you are. You’re the ones who must have everything done “just so.” You call it being “organized and thorough,” but in truth, you’re just a control freak. And if you don’t get your controlling under God’s control soon, you’re going to hurt a lot of people you love and miss some of God’s best adventures for your life!
I’ve watched control freaks for years, ruining the lives of their friends and family. They are the ones at holiday gatherings expecting everything to go perfectly, despite having a roomful of divergent personalities and opinions. They demand their employees not only get the job done but do it exactly how they would.
They are also the parents shaming their overweight kids just because they want them to be “healthy.” And we see them all over social media now, finding racism in every statement and heart. They feel they must right every wrong, and everyone but they are the ones in the wrong.
Take it from me. Your tweaks are as welcomed as being pecked to death by a duck.
The sad part is that whether you’re right or you’re wrong, what you’re doing is not going to work. Why? Because eventually, people will get tired of being dominated by you. I’ve also noticed that human nature works against controlling people. After a while, most people double down on the very behavior you’re trying to change.
The worst part is when controlling habits creep into your spiritual life. A.W. Tozer once said, “When we come to the place where everything [in the worship service] can be predicted, and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut.”
The same is true for your life. You think you’re being conservative and cautious. But God knows you’re just a coward. As a result, your life becomes dull and predictable. However, it is also peaceful.
Peaceful like a graveyard.
I love what the famous art teacher and TV personality Bob Ross said whenever he made a mistake painting: “We don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents.”
In the same way, film director Orson Welles talked about the importance of going with the flow in his technique. Far from trying to control every detail, he once explained: “The greatest things in movies are divine accidents… my definition of a film director is the man who presides over accidents… everywhere there are beautiful accidents… they’re the only things that keep a film from being dead.”
But when we try to take control of our lives, we leave little room for God to do his best work. Ultimately, we get only what we can accomplish with our limited skills and insight. What a waste!
Coincidentally, the sermon on that “train wreck Sunday” was on when Jesus prodded Peter to walk on water with him. I encouraged people to allow Jesus to make their lives an adventure, to “walk on water,” take risks, and live in the moment. And what God had just done is illustrate my sermon better than any pastor could ever expect!
I imagine there would not have been another opportunity if Peter hadn’t stepped out of the boat that night around 3:00 a.m. with Jesus. He saw his opening and asked Jesus if it was okay, then he stepped out into the Sea of Galilee. He didn’t wait for good conditions. The conditions were the worst possible for water walking—a storm. Yet he took hold of the opportunity amid an imperfect situation and became one of only two people to be held upright by nothing but H2O.
I want to live a life like that—something worth telling my grandkids about one day. How I stepped on a crazy whim and went on an adventure with Jesus. And together, we changed the world! Well, mostly him…but I helped.
That Sunday morning, our service certainly was a train wreck. But I went with the flow and had one of my best preaching experiences ever. Lives were changed, and I left invigorated and inspired. The best parts of it were completely unplanned, spontaneous, and out-of-control. It was something only God could have done…through me.
This is the life Jesus is calling you to—a messy, random, magical existence.
An unpredictable comedy of errors you could never plan in a million years. A story too unlikely and amazing to be believed. And yet it is happening right before your eyes.
Stop over-planning. Stop worrying. Embrace the chaos. Enjoy the ride.
Then tell your grandkids.
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash
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