Less Is Best: Counterintuitive Lessons on Control

Last week I had lunch with a new friend at an adorable restaurant in Downtown Franklin called the Mercantile. (It’s the cutest soup, sandwich and salad shop you could imagine, and they always have fresh flowers in blue mason jars sitting on top of each table. Very Joanna Gaines!)

My friend and her family are adopting a baby boy from China, and I couldn’t wait to hear the latest details about their upcoming trip to bring their son home. Their adoption story is filled with such joy, love, prayer and patience. This brave calling also requires accepting a lot of unknowns about the future.

At one point, I asked her, “How do you do it? How do you manage all of these unknowns, especially when they involve people you care about so much?”

She paused, understanding the weight of my question.

“Not knowing just makes me rely on God all the more,” she replied, then added, “and that’s not a bad thing.”

Bam.

What a message! My friend hit the nail on the head in describing a theme that God has been teaching me lately:

Not knowing can be good. Not understanding is okay. Not having control helps us yield our desires to Him, which is actually where they should be in the first place.

I don’t know about you, but the whole “less is more” concept when it comes to control is strongly counterintuitive to me. In my own little ideal world, I would make plans, lay out a strategy and ask God, “Does this sound good to You? Yes? Great!”

But guess what, guys? I am not God. This realization is a human-wide struggle goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had the right to know as much God.

God knew what was best for them. He loved them. They didn’t need to understand everything to trust that His plan was right and good.

Furthermore, they didn’t deserve to understand everything.

Yielding our rights, expectations and understandings to God is a difficult but beautiful process. It brings us back to where we’re meant to be. The more we let go of ourselves, the more we are able to embrace the Gospel of Christ and live the good life — the best life — that God has prepared for us.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, CSB).

I wish I could say that my bedroom looked like this. (Actually, this isn’t even my bedroom. Thanks, Pottery Barn and Pinterest, for utterly gorgeous and utterly unrealistic home decor inspiration.)

Unfortunately, my bedroom looked this this:

Yikes! I kind of can’t believe I just posted this disaster on the Internet. However, I snapped a picture of this mess because I knew I wanted to write a blog about this lesson that God has been teaching me lately.

You see, I made the conscious choice to leave my room in cluttered chaos before leaving for work because I chose to spend that time with the Lord instead. It was one of those mornings where I simply didn’t have enough time in the day, and one of the following things had to give:

  1. My appearance
  2. A beautiful, organized bedroom
  3. Time with God
  4. Coffee and breakfast

(Okay, we’re going to go ahead and rule out the idea of giving up coffee and breakfast, because those are quite literally the fuel for the rest of the items above.)

So, let’s look at item #1, appearance. I could go to work without wearing makeup or fixing my hair, but honestly, I know that’s not going to happen. Why? Because I care about what other people think of me. And in some sense, rightly so! I am a #yopro (that’s cool lingo for “young professional”), and it’s important that I represent myself and my company well. So showing up to work looking like a pale ghost with Lizzie-McGuire-esque crimped hair is probably not the best idea.

That moves us to item #2, an organized bedroom with all clothing tucked away in its respective drawers and decorative pillows in their proper places. If fixing my appearance is to please other people, then fixing up my bedroom is to please ME. You know that feeling when you walk out your bedroom door, glance back at your Pinterest-perfect bedroom and gently sigh. Ahh, you think. Joanna Gaines would be so proud. That’s a great way to start a workday, and it leaves you feeling good about your life. For a little while.

But, without item #3, somehow the good feelings from your adorable outfit and nice makeup and organized bedroom (and even the coffee and breakfast) don’t last long. I recently read a story in Luke when Jesus went to visit his friends who were sisters named Mary and Martha:

 

Every time I read this story, I think, I am such a Martha. I am a PLANNER. A Walmart-list-maker. A person who loves to make others feel comfortable in my home. What if JESUS–Jesus Himself–came to visit my house? I can guarantee that I’d be frantically running around, making sure He was comfortable, preparing a delicious meal and cleaning up wherever I could. And if I looked over in the living room and saw my brother Andrew sitting on the rug, listening to Jesus, doing nothing to help clean up? Oooh… that would not sit well with me!

But what does Jesus say? “Martha, Martha,”––or put your name in there––”Rachel, Rachel, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

The truth is, I am anxious and troubled about many things. And we will ALWAYS be anxious or troubled in some way or another. But only one thing is necessary. Jesus ends the story saying, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” What did Mary choose? She chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching.

Oh friends, what a privilege it is to hold the words and teachings of Jesus in the palm of our hands. I know I fall short of spending time as much time with Jesus as I should. In fact, I’m sometimes hesitant to post blogs like this, because I do NOT want to seem like I have it all figured out. I wish I could say that I spent plenty of time with the Lord every day, but in reality, I’m still learning this lesson. And each time I choose to spend time with Him over “things,” I’m reminded again that He is infinitely more precious than a pretty outfit or a pretty room.

What are the many things that are making you anxious and troubled? How can you choose to prioritize time with the Lord this week? Write out small steps of ways to put Jesus first, and see how He blesses your time in His Word.