Control Freaks

I wanted to share some excerpts from an article entitled “Living With an Intruder” by Dick Peterson. Peterson’s wife, Elizabeth, has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a neurological disease that progressively robs a person of their ability to do even simple tasks. There is no cure. Peterson reflects on the ways that he and his wife have had to change their lives:

Uninvited and unwelcome, this disease now forces us into a kind of sick reality game, leaving no choice but to follow the rules even as they change and become more restrictive …

Every family divvies up chores, fairly or not so fairly. The MS dictates ours and it's not at all fair, but we do have the choice to let it tear us apart or use it to strengthen our marriage bond as we face the adversity together. This reaches deeper than deciding who does what. It reaches to feelings, emotions, and attitudes about what we do, what's done to us, and who we are to ourselves and each other …

We both pray for healing. With our families and our church, we agonize before God for a return to the day when Elizabeth can offer an open handshake instead of a permanently clenched fist, or take a flight of stairs without thought.

But if we only grieve the loss, we miss the gain—that what this disease does to us may also be done for us. Even as the MS steals abilities from Elizabeth's life, a healing grows almost undetected inside. When we talk about this, Elizabeth wonders aloud, "Did it really take this to teach me that my soul is more important to God than my body?"

And I ask, "Is this what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to serve? When he washed their feet, did he look 2,000 years into the future and see me washing my wife's clothes and helping her onto her shower seat to bathe? Did it really take this to teach me compassion?" …

I somehow doubt that the Peterson’s would ever have chosen to go through this. But it’s awe-inspiring to see how they are walking with honesty and faith. They continue to be open to God’s leading. When I read Dick’s reflections, I am challenged and a little embarrassed. I let even the most minor of inconveniences anger me. What that says to me is I don’t like to be out of control. I get angry when I think I’m losing control of something.

But control is something of a myth. We’re not quite the masters of destiny that we think we are. The good news is, when we can accept this and get out of the way and let God work, great things happen. This happens again and again in the book of Acts.

As we’ll see this Sunday, Acts begins with a reminder to Jesus’ followers that they are not the ones pulling the strings. And, when they’re willing to let God do the string pulling, great things happen. May we have the courage to let go of things and trust in God, as well.