Regulating

We don’t control things; we regulate things. Human beings actually don’t control anything. We have agency, and we can regulate things; but we don’t absolutely, like dictators, control anything. I can’t control my heartrate absolutely. I ultimately can’t even control my breathing rate. I can regulate it-I can move it up and move it down-but there are going to be certain perimeters within which, you know, I can only hold my breath for so long and then I got to start breathing again.

Curt Thompson, MD

First I came across this graphic posted on social media. Within hours, I heard Dr. Thompson’s quote on his podcast, Being Known.

Our extremely accessible world tempts us to focus on the wrong things, to believe we can-or must-control more than is possible. When accepted, these temptations lead to overwhelming emotions that take us down roads we weren’t designed to travel.

This graphic states a helpful principle: focus on the things that matter that you can control. Everything else requires faith. Faith that all things matter to God. Faith that he controls all things. When I misplace that faith, I’ve given into another temptation-playing God.

These temptations need regulating. Working on regulating is less overwhelming than working on controlling. That I can work on. That makes me think of some of the Beatitudes-Jesus’ teaching on what blessing looks like.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

Matthew 5:3-9, The Message

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Gift of Balance: Work (Part 1)

(This is part one of the third topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. We talked in and out of two thoughts, so this entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Mark: I believe work is beneficial and important, but it isn’t a separated secular and sacred thing that our Christian community has made it out to be. Work isn’t the end all to be all, so the balance is valuing it correctly.

Tonya: Everybody benefits from work.  You feel better about yourself, and scripture backs that up.  My perspective on my work is that it is my calling and ministry. I feel passionate about it and called to do it. Even so, it’s not what gives me value. My work flows out of my “being,” who I am in Christ.  So my work gives me satisfaction as it flows from that place.

John: So is the question how to have balance or how to avoid being unbalanced?

Tonya: I think they flow together. My work is my calling, but there are those who think their work is their means to provide for their families and they don’t connect it with a calling. Colossians 3:23 helps us, whether we see work as a calling or a means to provide, to approach it as unto the Lord. Finding satisfaction in that is important.

John: One way I believe we can get unbalanced in our work is by compartmentalizing life in such a way that we leave God out of our work life, like you were suggesting Mark. For the person who hasn’t grabbed a hold of the fact that God is with us 24/7 and cares about all details of our lives, it’s a challenge to stay balanced because God isn’t acknowledged in all areas of life. He doesn’t have full access. That’s a temptation.

Mark: I see two tempting thoughts there. There’s the “I don’t know how or I don’t want God in my work area of my life.  I’ll keep him contained to my religious area.” The other aspect has to do with understanding the idea of sacred versus secular, like Tonya was talking about.  Maybe that distinction is a myth, and we just need to go do what God has given us to do with the skills we have. Regardless of what that is, it’s opportunity that we don’t have to describe as sacred versus secular.

Tonya: That’s makes me think of Brother Lawrence who talks about being in the presence of God even while he’s washing dishes in the monastery. How do we give God glory in whatever our work is? I think you’re right in saying we as the church have led that in the wrong way with the idea that if you’re called to ministry it looks one way.  We are all called to ministry. What does that mean in your everyday work life?

Mark: That leads into a thought that if we view something as “God’s work,” we can do it 24/7 and get out of balance because it is my calling, it’s sacred. That’s not healthy and particularly in the scenario of when it leads to neglecting your spouse, children or other key relationships. That’s a temptation people can fall into.

John: Is that a misdirection of someone trying to find their identity and worth and using this work as a deflection?

Mark: That’s certainly part of it. They can also be taking on too much responsibility for accomplishing God’s purpose and trying to own too much of it. Other important things in life suffer detriment.

Tonya: I see this happen a lot with the pastors I work with. I think it comes from a misguided understanding of priorities. Every minister can spout out the priorities of God>family>ministry, but their practices don’t always match. There is a confusion between what is my time with God and what I do for God.

I like where this is going because if we go back to what was said at the beginning, a well-defined idea of work will help us across the board. If the most important thing is to understand who we are in Christ first, then what we do comes out of our being. Whether we are a pastor, a doctor, or a garbage collector, everything we are doing is under God’s glory. Our work isn’t where we find our value or who we are. The work flows from who we are. I can’t work to the point I’m neglecting important relationships, my body, or my personal time with God. So for me as someone building a coaching practice, I have to set my hours ahead of time. Otherwise I will allow clients to dictate my schedule. That wouldn’t be good stewardship and balance.

John: This circles around the mentality, “it all rests on me.” Someone can take the savior mentality that the success of the company or ministry is all on them and they have to make it happen. That imbalance is another way of squeezing God out.

Tonya: Like in our coaching practices, “I have to build this. I have to make this happen.”

John: And subtly, we don’t even recognize that we are doing it.  There’s a check on who’s running the ship. “How much control do I have or should I not even try to have?”

Mark: There’s a phrase that I read a while back that has stuck with me. “Do what is yours to do and trust God to do the rest.” We can only do so much. Coming to that conclusion is easier for some than others, but if we simply do what is ours to do and trust God to do the rest, then it’s more likely to work out the way he wants it to work out. It may or may not be what we had laid out, but it will be more aligned with his plan and purpose.

3 Checks to Controlling Yourself 

In the last 12 hours, I’ve had three conversations around the subject of control. One was with myself; it happens when you wake up an hour before the alarm.

The interesting core of these conversations had to do with being frustrated or anxious. And every one of them found the same end that the cause of the frustration and anxiety was trying to control something that was out of their control.

We’ve all been there. “Why can’t they do it this way?” “What if they get mad?” “How come she gets better reviews they I get?” Before we drive ourselves to losing control, maybe we can check ourselves and, in a sense, own our control issues rather than trying to control things that we really can’t.

Check #1-Check your Expectations. Ask these questions:

  • Whose expectations are these?
  • Who agreed to these expectations?
  • What should my expectations be and what am I basing them on?
  • What happens if my expectations don’t get met? Who is going to care besides me?
  • What happens if my expectations do get met? Who is going to care besides me?

Check #2-Check your Opportunities. Ask these questions:

  • How might this relationship grow?
  • What might I learn today?
  • What other perspectives have I not considered?
  • How could I cultivate gratitude?
  • How can I show respect?

Check #3-Check your Fears. Ask these questions:

  • What if love drove me more than fear?
  • What can I find to affirm rather than judge?
  • How can I connect with them rather than hide from them?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “Yes”?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “No”?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2Timothy 1:7

Add this book to your library…NOW

Paul David Tripp’s book Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say & Do has been added to my list of must reads.

  • If you battle dissatisfaction, this book can help.
  • If you feel like you and God don’t get along or aren’t on the same page, this book can help.
  • If you work in ministry and have lost your joy, this book can help.
  • If you seem to be stuck figuring out your feelings, this book can help.
  • If you are angry with God, this book can help.
  • If you just can’t overcome complaining, this book can help.
  • If you have a shopping addiction, this book can help.
  • If you struggle processing what’s going on in the world, this book can help.
  • If you tend to control too much, this book can help.
  • If you struggle parenting, this book can help.
  • If you are looking to define success, this book can help.
  • If you aren’t sure whether heaven exists, this book can help.

Follow this link to Tripp’s website. Then buy this book. Read it soon. We are all at war over our awe. Learn why awe matters, what this war is even about, and let an awe correction change your life.

The Awe Boundary

In chapter 2 of Awe, Paul David Tripp talks about war. He isn’t talking about political or international war. He’s talking about spiritual war, and a very personal war at that. 

…a war wages over who or what will rule and control the awe capacity that God has established within the heart of every human being.

This war started soon after man’s creation. This war started when man was tempted to step over the awe boundary to pursue becoming like God. 

This dangerous fantasy now lurks in the heart of every sinner. We want godlike recognition, godlike control, godlike power, and godlike centrality. This was the initial moment when awe of self overrode awe of God and set the agenda for every person’s thoughts, desires, choices, and behaviors. For billions of people ever since, awe of self has literally driven every selfish, antisocial, and immoral thing we do.

Can you see it? It’s all around us. We are in awe of ourselves. Everyone of us face this war. 

TRUTH: this is a war we will lose, now or later. For everyone’s sake, it’s best to surrender-to step back across the awe boundary every time we find ourselves on the wrong side. It’s a constant battle that cannot be ignored.

TRUTH: the war really has already been won. It’s why Jesus came. He’s worthy of our awe. Maintaining focus on awe of Him keeps you on the right side of the boundary.