Unless chaos breaks into our existence, it is all but impossible to conceive of the degree of control we assume we have over our lives. So many dimensions of our Modern existence – dominated as it is by machines – give us the illusory sense of all but total control, to the point where those one or two things which we seem unable to control, often in the arena of personal relationships, assume a dimension which consumes our waking hours, and troubles our dreams.
For the myth we live with is that our lives are what we make of them. Not only do we assume we have the capacity to choose and to choose well, it is possible to have ‘the life we’ve always dreamed of’, and indeed that nothing or no one ought stand in our way as we strive towards the realisation of Our Dream.
We are lulled into this first by our extraordinary monetary wealth. ( From time to time I ponder the difference between my own extraordinarily wealthy existence and that even of my parents, a mere 50 years ago. Of how my father who had for the times a reasonably paid job, wondered about whether he ought to spend a few pennies on the evening newspaper. Of our first car that was so broken that it nearly brought my own life to a premature end – I could go on) Money comes with the false promise of control. After all we use it to buy things without let or hindrance. It gives us a large degree of mastery which we may well internalise as a sense of control over our very existence. I get what I pay for. And then again we work and live with machines which by and large do what we ask them to do – we have even developed this to the level of machines which we verbally command; ‘Alexa . . .!’.
And then we have the machines – which are dependable to an extraordinary degree, witnessed by the stories of their infrequent failures. Aeroplanes fly millions and millions of miles without falling from the sky, ‘the blue screen of death’ is now a very rare visitor to our on demand, on screen our existence.
Of course few of us have everything we truly want. Relationships break up, people get very ill – perhaps we ourselves, our bodies age, friends die unexpectedly, and so we howl ‘It isn’t meant to be like this!! and demand our own version of the cosmic ‘Alexa’ comes to our rescue to put our lives back on the tracks we have decided to follow. Of course this cosmic servant may only be our ideological opponents, but someone or something ‘should get this sorted’
Any sense of not being in control is to a large degree foreign to us, so regal have we become in so much of our existence, surrounding ourselves with uncosciously selected friends who tell us how right we are to want what we want, and to rail when we do not have it. ‘Leaves on the line’ of our lives MUST be cleared – ‘how could we allow such things to happen in the C21′ – the world of machines’
This world is a world in which faith is all but erased. Back in the C18 folk used to talk of ‘the god of the gaps’ – and in those days there was rampant TB, life expectancy was about half of what it is today, death in childbirth was a tragic commonplace, there was no ‘safety net’. Now the gaps are comparatively speaking microscopically small. We live in the bubble of life on our own terms, and God has all but departed the scene except as a theological problem when life does not deliver on time and in accordance with the agreed Terms and Conditions. And Gratitude?
The Idea that things aren’t meant to work out in the way our small imaginations had supposed, is offensive to us ‘This must never happen to you!’, precisely because, conditioned by existence in the world of wealth and machines, we assume that we are in charge of our own destiny. And it is quite possible that the LORD says to us ‘so be it’, and we are given over to our desires in a world stripped of Grace, not recognising that we are not our own . . .
I was drawn to think this through the realisation that I live with this illusion myself. That it is at times all but impossible to hear the voice which says, ‘one thing you lack . . . let go of that which around which you have shaped your own life story, and follow me’. ‘Follow me into places and circumstances you cannot even dream of for they do not dwell in your own unenlightened imagination ‘lit’ only by the feeble flame of your own fires, the things you tell yourself you know’
But our sense of control, our terror of not being in control nails us to an ever narrowing mountain ledge over what seems to us to be a chasm of bottomless darkness, terrified of losing our grip, as our hands tire and weaken . . .
Jesus offers us a Life that is Alien to us. It is a Life that is not our own. It is a Life that we can scarce imagine. We are terrified of it, for our lives are too small in its Majestic Scope, and our eyes are unaccustomed to its Light. It is a Life of which we are not the Author, and over which we have no control, for their is no compulsion in Love . . .