It is what it is. Whatever. Roll with it. C’est la vie. Don’t be such a control freak.
Yeah, right. Jesus take the wheel is a lovely sentiment, but I’ve got WAY more experience driving a car than a 1st century carpenter. To be honest, I don’t even like to be in a car where someone else from THIS century is driving.
Control freak: a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation.
Raise your hand if you have ever been accused of being a control freak (insert hand raised emoji here.)
The holidays and all the ensuing pressure can really ramp up the sense that everything in the universe is our job. Particularly for women, it sometimes feels like we are each personally responsible for making sure EVERYONE in our life has a perfect, meaningful and spiritually fulfilling Christmas. I thank God every day that I raised my children to adulthood BEFORE Pinterest became a thing!
This time last year I attended a silent retreat and learned a prayer that changed the way I look at this balancing act between what is my job and what is not. First of all, for those of you who know me at all, please pause a moment and consider me at a SILENT retreat. Words are my controlling weapon of choice in all circumstances, so my attendance alone was an exercise in submission and turning over control. Here is the beautiful prayer I learned in one of our sessions:
Father God (breathing in)
Creator of Life (breathing out)
Have mercy (breathing in)
On me (breathing out)
I am one (breathing in)
With the will of God (breathing out)
Let it happen (breathing in)
As you say (breathing out)
Pause a moment and experience this prayer for yourself. If not the whole prayer, just breathe in the final words “let it happen as you say” a few times.
In case you didn’t recognize them, the words let it happen as you say come from scripture and are found within one of our favorite Christmas stories. In the first chapter of Luke, we hear the story of a young girl named Mary meeting Gabriel, an angel of the Lord. In the Message translation of the story, Gabriel reassures the understandably frightened young girl by saying “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you.” (How is that for an understatement!) Gabriel goes on to explain to Mary that she will be the mother of the Savior. Although she asks a couple of questions, ultimately the conversation ends with these words:
“I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!”
I love reading the different translations of her words. Here are a few of them:
- I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said. (NLV)
- Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (ESV)
- I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants. May everything you said come true. (TLB)
- Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. (MSG)
How might Mary’s example help us learn to navigate the balancing act of deciding what is our job and what is better left in God’s hand? Where do we take control and where do we turn it over? What does it mean to let go and let God? How do we show up, do the next right thing and trust the process of walking out our faith?
I am the Lord’s servant
First of all, Mary was willing to show up. Mary raised her hand and said “I’m in!” She reported for duty. She remembered who was God and who was not. She acknowledged her role in the bigger Story God was telling and volunteered to be part of it. She didn’t wait to be ready, because clearly she would never be completely ready for this assignment.
Similarly, we are invited to show up in the work God is doing in the world around us. If we ask God to open our eyes to the part we might play, will we be willing to show up and believe that our contribution matters? That God really does want to partner with us in creating a better, kinder, more just, more beautiful, more loving world? When we let go of cynicism and the belief that nothing can change, we are empowered to show up and engage with the world in ways we might not have considered before.
Mary didn’t waste a minute
In verse 39, we learn what happens after the angel leaves. Without delay, Mary immediately leaves to go visit her cousin Elizabeth. In the Message translation, it says “Mary didn’t waste a minute.” Although she has acknowledged God is in charge, she doesn’t sit around twiddling her thumbs. Mary takes action. She chooses to do the next right thing. Gabriel has explained that Elizabeth is also experiencing a holy pregnancy, despite the obstacles she has encountered in having a child. Mary knows Elizabeth will be a source of encouragement and community on their unexpected journey, so she hits the road at once.
Like Mary, we have a choice to make. Do we sit around and wait for more information or do we take the step in front of us? Will we ask for help? Are we willing to step out in faith, even when we don’t know how it will all turn out? Even when we don’t know IF it will all work out? So many of us get paralyzed trying to figure out the details of how to live out the dream or calling in our heart or the assignment we think we have been given. But like Mary, it may be that the details are none of our business. We are invited to let go of our need for certainty. Our job is to show up and do the next right thing.
Let it happen as you say
And that brings us back to the prayer Mary taught us: let it happen as you say. We let go of control and learn to trust the process. Our job is to show up and do the next right thing, God’s job is to worry about the big picture. We are in charge of the process, God is in charge of the results.
Gabriel reminded Mary that “nothing is impossible with God.” As people of faith, we can relax knowing that a good, wise, loving and powerful God is in charge. Our faltering, messy, imperfect attempts at faithfulness are multiplied because God’s faithfulness is certain. We are not guaranteed a perfect or easy life, but we can count on the knowledge that we never face anything alone. God has our back. We really can let “Jesus take the wheel.”
God has a surprise for you. God is inviting you on an adventure. What might happen if you pray this scary, exciting, risky, beautiful prayer?
“I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen as you say.”God has a surprise for you. God is inviting you on an adventure. What might happen if you pray this scary, exciting, risky, beautiful prayer? I am the Lord's servant. Let it happen as you say. Click To Tweet
If you like the breath prayer above, let me add one additional detail. I have expanded the prayer in my own practice by reading through a second and third time substituting parts of the first line (Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit) and the sixth line (mind of Christ, Spirit of God or Spirit of Love.) Particularly when I feel overwhelmed, this prayer centers me in the power and sovereignty of our extravagantly generous triune God. AMEN and AMEN!