How to Lose in Sports

I hate losing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a card game, a touch-football game, or Scattergories. Losing is like being forced to drink a tall glass of cottage cheese while watching your puppy get kicked by the opposing team.

One of the worst days in UO history.

One of the worst days in UO history.

I know that sounds slightly extreme, but it used to be a lot worse for me. Whenever I’d lose or my favorite team would lose, it used to depress me for days. Not minutes. Not hours. Days. The worst was whenever my beloved Oregon Ducks would lose a football game.

Growing up, the Ducks used to lose often, so fall was always a rough time for my heart. But once I hit high school, winning became a regular thing for the Ducks. It got to the point that in my freshman year of college—attending the University of Oregon, of course—the Ducks were well on their way to go to the national championship game, led by the Heisman-trophy-candidate quarterback, Dennis Dixon.

But while playing Arizona, Dixon’s knee gave out, a season-ending injury. Without their starting quarterback, the Ducks flailed and lost the game, forfeiting all national championship aspirations. They limped through the remainder of the season.

Needless to say, I was devastated. This was the worst loss of them all. I wasn’t just depressed, I was angry. I felt like this had been some sick cosmic joke, to come so far over the years just to fall flat. It was unjust.

Trying to cope with the loss, some friends wanted to watch a movie. If something else occupied our minds, then maybe we would feel better. Someone chose the movie Blood Diamond, which had come out on DVD not too long before. If you don’t know, Blood Diamond is a movie about conflict diamonds and how they are used to fund rebel armies who use child soldiers to wage their wars. It’s a gruesome but very well-made film.

There’s this one scene in the movie where the rebel general invades a village looking for new boys to join his army and slaves to mine for diamonds. The general massacres much of the village and rounds up all the males, boys and men. Hands get chopped off. Mothers get shot. It’s horrible.

I remember watching the scene and feeling disturbed because the crimes committed were so wrong. But then I suddenly felt more disturbed. I realized that although I was moved by this injustice, I was not angered by it—not like how I was angered by the supposed injustice of the Duck game. I was more furious about a football game than I was about an evil man brainwashing children to kill people. I remember thinking, I am a horrible human being. Football doesn’t matter as much as people.

Jesus took me to the mat for that one. Thankfully, from that point on I’ve had a sobered perspective on losing. Sometimes I have an initial emotional reflex, but it’s always tempered with that memory.

A couple years later, the Oregon Ducks actually ended up going the national championship game but we lost because of a last second field goal. I was fine. Watching the game was actually one of the most fun experiences of my college career.

I’m not saying losing should be easy. I understand the pain of losing a game. In a high school soccer playoff game, I missed a penalty kick that would’ve tied the game. Instead, we lost because of me. The pain is real, especially for the players and coaches. I’m not going to take that away from anyone. But I do know that sports is just a part of life, not life itself. While we’re losing games, people are losing loved ones. We should consider ourselves blessed when the most traumatic event in our life is just losing a game.

At the same time, we shouldn’t devalue the losses. Don’t pretend like they never happened. They’re tools to teach us, grow us. In many ways, you learn more when you lose than when you win. There is such a thing as getting back on the horse, stepping back into the ring, and the come-from-behind win.

Everyone is going to lose at some point, definitely in sports but also in life. The question is not if you will lose, but how will you react.

Out of Context: Matthew 7:1 – Judge Not

In our next installment of Out of Context, we are going to examine what some have deemed to be the trump card to any rebuke, Matthew 7:1.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Plank-in-eyeMany people use this verse as a blanket to protect themselves from any moral correction. I’ve even had it quoted to me multiple times to make me stop talking about sin. “Ah but Jesus says, ‘Don’t judge.’ You’re sounding really judgy right now.”

This interpretation gives the impression that no sin can be pointed out—that we’re above or outside moral accountability. We’ve even created a title for someone who does not follow this verse very well—they are “judgmental,” like the angry adults from Footloose who wouldn’t let Kevin Bacon just dance.

Is this true? Are Christians not allowed to call out someone else’s sins?

THE CONTEXT

Here’s the context to Matthew 7:1.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We find this passage in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus used this famous sermon to overturn the traditional ideas of the Law—that it’s all about external behavior—and to show the people that it’s really all about the heart. God cares more about the heart than the outward appearance of righteousness. Those who focus only on appearing righteous, they’re deemed hypocrites (6:2, 5, 16; 7:5).

Which brings us to Matthew 7:1, “Judge not.” Normally we just stop there and wave it in the faces of our accusers. But Jesus doesn’t stop at the first two words. He continues to explain His point, “That you be not judged.” He shows the reason we shouldn’t judgenot because it’s bad but because we will be judged too.

So judgement is reciprocated with judgement. How is this boomerang judgment done? “With the measure you use” (7:2). If we judge someone else’s sins, we’ll be judged by the same standard.

Who will judge the judger? He doesn’t indicate that it will be another person. The implication is that the judger will be judged by God. If you’ve been judging others by a different standard than you judge yourself, then you’re in big trouble.

Jesus then uses a fairly humorous illustration to drive His point home. He says the person who judges with different standards is like a person with a log in their eye who’s trying to take a speck out of someone else’s. Kind of ridiculous right? If you have a 2×4 sticking out of your cornea, you’re probably not in the best place to help get a small piece of dust out of your neighbor’s eye. You should probably go to a hospital.

Jesus ends, indicating who He’s talking to, “You hypocrite”—the person who says one thing and does another, the person only focused on appearing righteous. He commands that the hypocrite first remove the log out of their eye. This will enable them to take the speck out of their brother’s eye. It’s important to notice that He doesn’t forbid them from removing the speck. He just wants it done in the correct order.

THE IMPLICATIONS

So what does this all come down to? It shows that Jesus is less focused on “judging” and more focused on the heart.

A hypocrite calls out someone’s sin when they haven’t dealt with their own. The hypocrite thinks they’re more holy and above everyone else. They look down on others because of their sin. They think they’re always right and everyone else is always wrong. They commit the same sins they’re condemning in others. They may even celebrate the downfall and sin of others. They don’t realize that the same Bible is judging them too.

Does this passage forbid judging sin? No. He still wants the speck out of the person’s eye. Also, if you look at the following verse, 7:6, it says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs.” Jesus is speaking metaphorically here of those who do not value or treasure the truth. How are we to determine who are dogs and pigs if we aren’t allowed to make a judgment call?

Instead, Jesus is giving the proper procedure to judge sin. Be humble. Deal with your junk first. Admit your sinfulness and your need for a savior. Repent. Know that you are no better than anyone else. If you do that, then you will be able to clearly see and help someone out of their sin with a heart of compassion, love, and grace.

The church should be a place where people are accountable for their sins. This is why Proverbs talks so much about how to give a rebuke and how to receive a rebuke. But we don’t do it with our own standards. We do it with the standard of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Sin is cancerous. If we truly love people, we will help keep them away from what will kill them.

A couple final caveats for judging.

1. We do not judge non-Christians. Paul writes, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). It’s not our place to call out the sins of the world. If someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, how can we expect them to live like Him? The point is not to have a society full of moral people. The point is to get everyone saved. You get saved through faith in the Gospel, not morality. Living like Christ comes after being saved by Him. Instead, we’re to make sure that those who’ve been redeemed are living like redeemed people, starting with ourselves.

2. Our desire should always be restoration. Whenever sin is confronted, there should be the hope of repentance. This idea is echoed throughout Scripture, like Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We don’t gloat over someone else’s sins. We don’t celebrate anyone’s downfall. We don’t point out someone’s sin just to make ourselves feel better. If that’s your attitude, then you still have a log in your eye. Your desire should always be restoration with a gentle spirit.

3. Recognize your own sinfulness. You aren’t any more immune to sin than the person you’re helping restore. It could’ve easily been you who was caught in the affair, passed out drunk on the couch, addicted to pornography, filled with bitterness, or caught gossiping. Constantly check the mirror, look for logs, and pray that God would give you the grace to remove them.

Previous Out of Context posts:
Matthew 18:20 – Where two or more are gathered
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me
How to take a verse out of context

What I’ve Learned as a New Parent So Far

Real Men Change DiapersIt’s been eight weeks from yesterday since I became a new parent.

While Rebecca was pregnant with Madeline, the number one thing, by far, other parents told me was, “everything is going to change” (Even total strangers would say this to me, no joke). At the time, I had no idea why they felt this was profound wisdom. I knew things would change—it’s simple math that two is different than three—but I had no idea to what degree that change would be.

Right away when Madeline was born, it hit me: There’s no return receipt. She’s here in your arms. You’ve taken out a lease on a human for the next eighteen years. Hope you’re ready, Dad, because it’s happening anyways.

That sounds kind of scary (It was and sometimes still is) but I would never change it for the world. Now, almost two months into this game of parenthood, I’ve realized that the changes never stop and neither do the lessons. I by no means am an expert at parenting—not even close—but I’m learning tons of things through taking care of this little bundle of joy and diapers.

Here’s just a snapshot, in no particular order.

The Love of a Parent Is Different
That’s really the best way I can put it. Different.

It’s not the same kind of love I have for my wife. The love Rebecca and I have in our marriage is work (more on that later), and it was cultivated over a long period of time. I showed up at her house one evening and kept bugging her for two years until she married me. We have ups and we have downs. It’s beautiful and it’s terrifying. Our relationship has to be continually nurtured. If we were to completely ignore each other, our love would grow cold and stale. It’s hard but it’s amazing. That’s marriage.

But the love I have for Madeline is completely different. The second she arrived on this earth, I loved her. I was tired, she was slimy and screaming, but I loved her. We don’t really have a relationship yet because she doesn’t know English. She hasn’t contributed anything to our family except human waste. She hasn’t done anything to earn my love. But I love her. I delight in her. I could stare at her for hours while she just kicks her feet. I want to protect her and give her everything she needs. She doesn’t need to give me anything.

I imagine that’s similar to how the Father loves us. We are poop-covered, crying babies, and God looks at us with loving eyes—delighting in us. That’s grace.

It’s Easy to Neglect Your Marriage When a Parent
I’d heard this one before and seen it happen to other couples, but it was another thing to experience it.

Before Madeline was born, it was fairly simple to find quality time with my wife. It was only the two of us at home and so it would just organically and spontaneously happen. But with the baby here, we’ve been on a continuous three hour loop: feed the baby, change the baby’s diaper, play with the baby, put the baby to sleep, take a deep breath, rinse and repeat. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day but you get older and more sleepy.

On top of that cycle, I have full-time work at Ekklesia and my wife is also trying to take care of the apartment. Oh yes, and we have to do these things called eating and sleeping. Add all of that up and what you get is two really tired spouses who love watching TV and sitting on the couch.

It took us about seven and a half weeks to realize that wasn’t working very well. One day we actually talked (What a novel concept!) and it felt like being with an old friend who had just returned from a long trip. We’d spent hours upon hours together and yet it felt like we hadn’t seen each other for weeks.

It’s easy to fall into the routine of just coexisting in marriage. Kids can easily dominate your relationship and dictate everything. I don’t want to send Madeline off to college and then return home, look at my wife and say, “Who are you?”

Pray Continuously
As I’ve shared earlier, I’m prone to worry and control-freaking. Having a newborn is just one more chance for me to spaz out.

I have to continuously pray because it reminds me that although I am not in control, God is. He loves Madeline far more than I ever could. He has a plan for her far better than I could ever create.

Prayer allows me to place Madeline into God’s hands and feel okay about it. It’s actually a freeing thing to know you are not in control.

Prayer also reminds me Who this is all for. I am not a parent in order to fix my deep identity issues or validate myself as a man. I am a parent to glorify God, exemplify the love of the Father, and point Madeline to the Gospel.

These are lessons I am still learning and will continually learn. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

We Were Created to Work

danger-man-at-work-hiMany people have a love/hate relationship with the word “work.” They like the idea of accomplishing goals and earning their keep, but the actual sweat and effort makes them squirm.

I often hear men boys complain about their workload—the hours are long, the work is menial, their boss is a tyrant, the amount of homework stresses them out, it hurts their fingers—but then with a little bravado in their voice they announce, “Well, it’s just my cross to bear. Work is a part of the Fall. Thanks a lot, Eve,” and then they’re applauded for their perseverance.

CREATED TO WORK

Those guys are wrong. Work is actually not a part of the Fall. Adam began working the very day he was created. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Work has always been a part of God’s original design for mankind. We were created to work. We were created to cultivate. We were created to create.

What comes with the Fall is not the reality of work but the cursing of our work (Gen. 3:17-19). Now what we create resists. What we cultivate rebels just like we did to God.

Sin has entered into our work. Instead of working to spread the glory of God, we gravitate towards two different extremes—laziness or idolatry. One man may hide between his parents’ couch cushions to avoid working too hard at Taco Bell. The other works 90 hour weeks, neglects his family, his faith, and his health, all for a corner office.

Both are sin.

Work is a lot more difficult now, but we are still called to work and that work can still be good.

WHO’S THE BOSS

We were created to work but not for ourselves and not to create our own meaning. We work and create because—being made in the image of God—we are to reflect the God who created the world and works in human lives.

Our work is worship to Him. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

You can be a pastor, a lawyer, a mailman, a student, a plumber, a stay-at-home mother, an accountant, or a barista and work hard and well, remembering the whole time your true employer is Jesus Christ. Negative attitudes and half-hearted service wouldn’t please an earthly boss, let alone our Heavenly One.

Jesus died that we would reflect Him in every aspect of our lives. How we flip burgers is not of little value. Everything matters.

That truth should encourage us to make those lattes or crunch those numbers to the best of our abilities—to the glory of Christ. Through your work you can show others how great your God is, that His transforming power infiltrates even the littlest of actions.

You don’t need a seminary degree or a title for permission to minister full-time as a vocation. A banker can make just as much an impact for the Kingdom as a pastor. But this is only possible if our work is for Christ and not ourselves. He is our Lord and Savior and He is the only One who can give our work true meaning.

For further reading check out Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.

This post was adapted from a previous post by me on the Ekklesia Eugene blog.

Fool’s Gold

Tucker Stipe is a really great friend of mine (Kyle). We both studied together in the Ekklesia School of Ministry and were co-workers on staff at the church. Tucker’s now chasing after an M.Div. from Knox Seminary in hopes to one day plant a church in Miami, Florida. Some of us are called to bear the cross, others are called to the beach. I have always admired Tucker’s humble honesty in bearing his own soul. He is one of the most authentic people I know and you will see that in his writing. I know you will enjoy what he has to say in this guest post. 

Fool's GoldFool’s gold, everybody has fallen for it… hopefully as a kid and not as an adult. More likely someone is naive when they go down to Mexico and buy a “solid silver” necklace only to find their skin turning green from wearing it. Fake jewelry is so commonplace that no one thinks twice when they see a high school kid walk in with fat “diamonds” in his ears, because we all know he got them at Claire’s. It is the substance of the jewelry that makes the difference, not its outward appearance. Some things are genuine on the outside and yet devoid of that purity at their core which would make them so valuable. Enter case study number one:

The church of Ephesus was a great church with phenomenal leadership at various times in its life. But not all that glitters is gold. Jesus had strong words for this church when He had John write to them in Revelation 2. They were commended for being doctrinally pure, morally pure, and for persevering in their witness, but at their core there was a grave problem. They had forsaken their first love. The text is a bit ambiguous as to what love they had forsaken, their love for God or their love for one another. Perhaps Jesus left it vague for a reason. Jesus Himself, when He walked the earth, said the second greatest commandment was like the first, thus linking the two! Genuine Christian love is impossible without a love for Jesus. It seems this church had lost the sweetness that comes from a heart filled with the Spirit of Christ. The church clearly upheld the truth boldly, but without love the truth is nothing but a club with which to beat thy neighbor with.

I personally feel this tension greatly. I must admit that this would be a sin area in my life that the Lord has been teaching me and growing me in. I have often been so concerned with upholding the truth and remaining morally pure that I have forgotten the love of Christ that must compel the first two pursuits. What I have found is this, as Jesus captivates my heart more and more I have a greater desire to be pure and orthodox and yet my tenderness and kindness with people grows, I have a much greater patience with people because I am so grateful for God’s patience with me. True love cares about more than doctrinal and moral purity; true love cares about the spirit of the individual. And thus true love speaks the truth but with tenderness and care for the whole person, recognizing our own faults.

At times I think highly of my pedigree, which leads me to that prideful condemning spirit. Enter case study number two: Paul the apostle had to come to the point where he realized his resume was not impressive enough (Phil 3). It was not his pedigree that made the difference, it was his “love for Christ” (pardon the paraphrase). When Paul found his “first love” his shiny exterior became of little value to him, he even called it as good as dung! I must point out however that, that did not mean that Paul threw out his “good works,” but it does mean that he no longer put his confidence in them. Their role in his life changed. Rather than trying to uphold the law to perfection, he acknowledged that he never could and relied on the sacrifice of Christ for his salvation and the power of the Spirit for his sanctification.

It is all by the grace of God worked out in our hearts that allows us right relationship with God and one another. We cannot forsake our “first love.” The trouble with this type of sin is we are really bad at seeing it in ourselves. Often like the church in Ephesus we need someone to point it out to us in true love. If you dare, I challenge you to find someone who knows you and is around you a lot, give them permission to be brutally, lovingly honest and ask them if you come across as high-handed, demeaning and condemning as you stand for moral and doctrinal purity. Then be humble and just listen; pray that God would give you eyes to see yourself the way He sees you. Don’t rebut or make excuses, just listen! It is only in real authentic community that you can get this kind of “real talk”.  If you think you don’t have anyone who would be qualified to speak into your life in that way, step one is bearing your soul with some people. This is where I am. Having moved across the country and only being here for about a month I need to bear my soul with brothers. God is asking me to reassess my life for Him and His people and to put no confidence in my flesh, but without a community to help me navigate these things I am sure to end up off track.

My fear is that I would look at myself 40 years from now and see a man jaded by ministry and who has lost his passion for making disciples and seeing lives transformed. If my confidence is in my flesh and my love is centered anywhere other than love for Lord and neighbor, then ministry will become a burden and I will continually be frustrated. Without community this slide is a guarantee, but God has called us into fellowship to guard us from this and to lead us to a pure confidence and love.

Tucker Stipe is a man who is after God’s heart. He longs to see the city of Miami transformed by the gospel. His driving passion is to know his Savior and to make disciples. Tucker blogs at gospelcolumn.com on the gospel, life, family, etc.  You can also follow him on Twitter @tuckstipe.

We Are Far Too Easily Pleased

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Theology vs. Experience: Which Should a Christian Focus on?

Worshipper

Is he supplicating or contemplating?

There’s a trend running around the American church that devalues theology’s place in an individual’s life. It holds that a relationship with God will produce all the truth needed. Theology may be for some people, (dusty academics hidden behind mountains of rotting books and pious pastors who have no people skills) but not for them. It says theology only engages the mind but not the heart. Because God is a relational God, He wants us to experience Him—He wants us to drown in His love like it’s a big love-ocean. They say you simply can’t get that kind of passion if you treat Christianity like the SAT’s.

While there may be some legitimate concerns underlying these sentiments, there is a subtle danger here.

They are right that what matters more is heart-transformation, not information infusion. What they don’t realize is that a Christianity entirely based on experience and feelings alone will lead people astray.

It’s a false dichotomy to think the mind and heart are exclusive. God created us to engage Him with our whole being. Focusing on one side can make the other suffer.

Here are a few warnings about focusing solely on spiritual experiences:

1. Spiritual Experiences are not unique to Christianity.

Buddhists fall into trances as they commune with the spirits. Through prayer, Mormons receive the “burning in the bosom,” a gut sensation that’s supposed to confirm the veracity of the Book of Mormon. Hindus and New Age experience tranquility through their yoga and meditation. The pagan Greeks experienced an “ecstasy” that would take over their body and mind, causing them to speak in tongues.

Those spiritual experiences are real, and they are real because the spirits behind them are real—and they’re definitely not of Christ. There is an enemy at work and they would love to distract people with real experiences that confirm lies. This is why John warns, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

He wouldn’t say that unless believers were already falling for it.

2. Experience is very individualistic.

Many times when experience is emphasized, it’s just individualism and consumerism wrapped up in spirituality. It’s all about experiencing God in your own personal way.

The customer is always right.

The problem is everyone experiences things in different ways. If one person experiences God as a mother figure, another hears God’s audible voice in the wind telling them words to write down in a journal, and another sees Jesus in bodily form at the local Denny’s every other Tuesday, how are we to decide whether or not these are accurate representations of God? Based on experience alone, there is no way. They have felt the emotions and cried the tears, so it must be true.

Following such logic, the aim of church then becomes about feeling God, not about gathering to know and praise Him. Inevitably such a perspective transforms from being about God into being about self.

3. Elevating experience can bring about a low view of Scripture.

A failure to anchor experience to the truth of the Word is why we have whole denominations throwing snakes at each other during church. They take one verse out of context and it’s reinforced by the intensity of their experience. Holding a rattlesnake may be one of the biggest adrenaline rushes you can feel, but that doesn’t mean your heart and God’s are hugging.

This goes beyond bizarre religious practices. If how I feel matters more than what is written, then it will affect how I live—how I view things like sin. A dating couple can justify sleeping together and co-habitating because they think they love each other. A person who was abused can justify their hate because they were hurt by an evil man. A husband can justify leaving his wife because he believes another woman is his soulmate.

When how you feel matters more than what is written, anything goes. This is why Jesus called us to “die to ourselves;” there’s something more important than how you feel. If you’re a Christian, it can’t be about you anymore.

A BETTER WAY TO GO

Theology is literally “the study of God.” If you want to have a vibrant relationship with God you must study Him—you must grow in theology—because what you believe about God will influence how you experience Him.

It really doesn’t matter if someone says they don’t “do” theology. Everyone is a theologian. The question is whether or not they are a good one.

A good theologian is not someone who has all the answers. A good theologian seeks to know God as He wants to be known, as revealed through His Word. A good theologian has a heartfelt faith and an intelligent one.

Filter everything through Scripture. God must be worshipped “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It’s our duty to draw deeper into that truth, and allow it to transform our hearts.

You Are Out of Control

This baby hates being helpless, just like me.

This baby hates being helpless, just like me.

On May 21st, I became a father. My daughter, Madeline, was born weighing a mere six pounds and three ounces. She is a tiny human being. Her hands are shorter than my thumbs. My hand is as long as her torso. When I carry her, I can tuck her into one arm like a football. She can’t defend herself. She can’t feed herself. She can’t even hold her own head up. When she gets hiccups she sounds like a chipmunk. She is completely helpless without my wife and me (mostly my wife). She controls nothing of her own life.

Madeline depends upon us for survival but I’ve also learned that my wife and I aren’t in control either—and it is terrifying. We can try to feed her on schedule, rock her to sleep, and give her vitamins and vaccines but none of that guarantees her safety or survival. None of that keeps her tiny heart beating and lungs pumping. Yes, her survival is dependent upon us in many ways, but in many ways it also isn’t.

I don’t have control and I know it, yet I still try to grasp for it. I freak out about every little sound Madeline makes while she sleeps. I always wonder if I’ve poked her soft spot too hard. I’ve never been much a of a germ-a-phobe but no one is coming near my daughter without having an acid-scrub bath. All of it is a futile attempt to bring about a desired outcome.

This isn’t the first time I’ve longed to be in control, and to my wife’s chagrin, it probably won’t be the last.

Why is it so hard for me to be out of control? I think it’s because there is something in me that would rather succeed (or fail) on the basis of my own efforts (That something is pride, if you were wondering). This is why I have a hard time accepting grace— or God’s sovereignty. I want control and I want say in the matter. The laughable thing is that it really is a denial of reality. I’m like a man locked in a mental institute who thinks he’s Napoleon Bonaparte, commanding my troops to honor and glory from within the padded white walls.

It takes a truly delusional person to think they can actually influence every aspect of their life.

The truth is, I can barely control myself, let alone a city (a state, a country, a world, etc.) full of autonomous human beings who are also trying to control themselves and everyone around them. Don’t forget about the weather.

I definitely don’t have this figured out yet, but I do know this: we don’t need to be afraid. In fact, the most common command in the Bible is, “Do not fear.” Although we don’t live in a world ruled by Kyle Hatfield (a hard to accept but probably comforting thought), we also don’t live in a world ruled by chance and cruel indifference to suffering. This is God’s world and He’s got a plan worked out. It’s a plan that’s far greater than anything my puny brain could cook up.

We’re like my daughter, a helpless baby, too small and too fragile for this world. We also have a Father who is watching over us. But this Father is in complete control—and He loves you.

So for now, I can rest from my worry and hold my daughter as her little heart beats.