You know those moments when you come across a quote that seems like it was written for the sole purpose of making you, personally, question your entire approach to life? It happened again today while I was casually scrolling Facebook (I almost included “minding my own business,” but that’s the opposite of what we do on social media). Anyway, a post by the Risen Motherhood page read as follows:
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is . . . that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.” -C. S. Lewis
I think a few other people in the library heard me sigh, audibly, in convicted frustration.
I’m sure part of it is just a reality of the sin nature first and foremost, but our collective obsession with cultivating our own expectations and plans for life is one of the many things we derive from our surrounding culture. Postmodernism is one obvious culprit, with its emphasis on creating “your reality” (as though ultimate, objective, out-there reality doesn’t exist or isn’t as important). Even further back, though, modernism and the Enlightenment era philosophy of the god-like capacities of the human will/mind continue to hold a place in our inherited worldviews.
We still think we are God. We are held captive by the same lie that caused the fall of man in Eden. We strive to retain a sense of control and ownership over our experiences, our existence, and our efforts. This is true even for those of us who call Christ “Lord,” a title that means Master and Authority. This term has all but lost its meaning in a world where autonomy (self-government) and liberty from outward constraints are valued above everything. If you’re an American, you may have never once thought of these concepts as potentially negative or destructive. We are taught to believe we should author our own stories . . . and never accept the idea that our manuscript might be edited and abridged, even by God.
Romans 14:7-8 (ESV) paints an entirely different picture of life for the believer: “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” You are not your own. You were bought at great price, the blood of Christ, and even before this He was the one created you and who sustains your existence. You exist for His glory before any other purpose.
Your time is not primarily for you. Your energy is not primarily for you. Your preferences for what you experience are not the deciding factor in what your life has, does, or will hold. You cannot expect to live with yourself at the center of the universe and die in a state of peace and satisfaction. You are not your own. You are not your own.
This makes us squirm with discomfort and perhaps even with angry rebellion. Even those of us who think of ourselves as “surrendered to God” are guilty of self-idolatry that shines through in different moments. Idolatry of self (perceived self-ownership) manifests when we grow exasperated over earthly trials and disappointments; when we are inconvenienced by someone’s needs; and when others fail to acknowledge our desires or demands. It causes us to ask in anger, “Why can’t things just go according to plan?” Or even still, it causes us to whisper in bitterness and despair, “This is not the life I signed up for. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.”
I passionately profess that God is both sovereign and good. I agree both with the Westminster Confession of Faith that He “ordains whatsoever comes to pass,” and with hymn writer Samuel Rodigast that “whate’er my God ordains is right.” And yet this is often the most difficult thing to genuinely, consistently, experientially believe in the Christian life. Why? Because my sinful flesh wants to be in the place of God, and it secretly balks at the idea that He has the right to orchestrate my life for His glory and not for mine. It doesn’t want to play a role in His story – it wants center stage, and so it treats unsavory circumstances as deviations from the script rather than the strokes of God’s own pen.
But, believer, you and I are not our own.
We belong to the God who is both sovereign and good . . . just and merciful . . . surprising and reliable. We exist for Him. That’s something to find infinite hope and rest in.