The Bobby Brown Complex

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“Everybody’s talking, all this stuff about me
Why don’t they just let me live?
I don’t need permission
Make my own decisions
That’s my prerogative!
It’s the way that I wanna live
I can do just what I feel
No one can tell me what to do! ”
-Bobby Brown

It’s not 1988 anymore and most of us are no longer upset about Bobby leaving New Edition. But most of us can still sympathize with the lyrics to this hit song right?

People (all of us) like to feel like we are in control. I am the boss of my own existence and I’m not taking any junk from anybody right?

Just three quick examples I have run into in the last few days:

– I had an awesome conversation with a friend over coffee this past Saturday and
we spent a good deal of time talking about video games. We both grew up in the arcade generation and we were like kids again talking about video games and the allure of the art form! As I went to bed that night I couldn’t help thinking that one of the reasons we love video games so much is that we get to enter into a digital world where we have total control. Everything moves at the touch of a button and the move of a joystick. You get to do and experience things that you never could in real life and be in the driver’s seat! (Literally in some games)

– My wife and I began a new devotional series together this past Sunday night and it has a marriage theme. In the first devotional, the observation is made that one of the greatest sources of conflict in marriage is over control. One or both spouses are not willing to forego their own wants and desires to show grace to the other person. When a spouse feels that they are not being loved or treated the way they should they begin to then manipulate the relationship (control) which then leads to worse consequences as the other person begins to rebel at this attempt to be controlled. Interesting stuff that I have found to be mostly true in relationships.

– Just read an article this morning on the future of automotive transportation. (I have broad reading interests.. Ha) In the article, it was discussing the future of automated vehicles. Cars that would drive themselves using GPS and sensor technology. The author expressed pessimism on whether this technology would catch on. His reason- He stated that people were hesitant to give control of their vehicle over to a machine. That people preferred to have their hands on the steering wheel and could not bring themselves to give that up. My wife would probably attest to this as I can hardly bring myself to allow other people to drive me around…much less a robot. 😉

I could list a million examples here of how much people really dig being in control. The thing is, I really don’t even need to look outside of myself for plenty of examples.

My own thought patterns and behaviors are absolutely geared towards maintaining personal control over my life…or at least in perpetuating the illusion that I am so I can feel better about it.

In some areas of my life…I can absolutely see where this attitude may be somewhat beneficial. I mean self-control is a virtue right? I don’t want my commute to work in the morning to resemble a real life version of Grand Theft Auto after all….although I admittedly have entertained the idea during rush hour traffic.

But in most areas, it’s actually pretty damaging! Being a manipulator of objects, situations, and other people…can bring some pretty harmful consequences.

Why do we do this?

I asked my daughter a question similar to this just the other day. We were talking about why people treat other people badly and use them. I asked her why she thought people did it. Her answer was kind of profound… She said “Because of the fruit!”

At first I didn’t follow her but then she explained. “Because we ate the fruit in the garden”. She was talking about the biblical story of the fall of man when sin first entered the picture. Of course, she was right. We do this stuff because we are broken! Because ever since that day, man has been trying to live life his own way and has taken on the role of god for themselves. It’s all about control.

And here’s the deal…even after we come to faith in Christ, we still wrestle daily with the control issue.

It would really be convenient for me if I had a God I could control. One that I could put into a nice little box and carry under my arm. Hide Him when I need to…let people peek into the box when I allow them to. Kind of like a pet.

I don’t want a God that asks anything of me. I am not really interested in a God that I should submit my life to…or one that will have me sacrifice anything. I want one that lets me set the rules of engagement. One that just follows me around to help me when I need it and reminds me of a genie…or a cosmic Santa Claus. At the end of the day I want a God that well…acts like I am God.

But the big problem is…that’s not God. The real God…the God of the bible…cannot be contained. He is self-sufficient and needs nothing or no one. He is mighty, fierce and yes somewhat terrifying. And while He does love me…He ultimately knows that the best thing for me is not my comfort and for all of my desires to be met…but for His glory to be shown in my life.

This God is the God that is best for us. Not the idol we often fashion in our own minds that is made after our own image. But the one, true living God…who can be both known and unknown. Who can be approached but yet is utterly unapproachable. A God who can be at times, mysterious…and even dangerous.

How can my broken, self-centered self ever dream of relating to such a God as this?

Jesus says it this way in Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me” (emphasis added)

My desire to control my own life and destiny must be put to death…daily. I must first recognize the state I am in…that’s always the first step. I must confess this to Him and ask for His help in the matter. I then must approach the spiritual disciplines and journey of my life with an open hand and heart. Not engaging them with a mindset of manipulation or with the thought of getting anything in return. But humbly laying my life (thoughts, actions, words) daily at the feet of the only one capable of changing such a heart as mine!

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