A teacher remembers: “The topic for my third-grade class was genetics. Smiling broadly, I pointed to my dimples and asked, “What trait do you think I passed on to my children?” And a student called out, “Wrinkles!”
We can’t control what others say, can we?
Control is no good. It’s a delusion and an illusion. We should let go more often and let God. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We don’t have the strength to live each day on our own. We can’t keep control of everything and everyone we want to. But too often we try as hard as we can to watch over and manage others, at least the ones who are most accessible to us.
Take some rest. Let others take the responsibility that belongs to them. Give God the space to make miracles happen, and they will.
We want to grow less comfortable with needing to control. Take up your responsibility but don’t demand the result. Do your part but understand you’re in a partnership. The Lord is at work, and others are willing more often than we believe.
Not all need to have as much control as others. Some folks fear being in situations that to them are confusing or unpredictable. They don’t do well when things are ambiguous. Another kind of person is motivated by the need to prove themselves, being in charge, and getting their way. In other words, some are driven to control their environments, some are driven to control the people around them, and some look to do both. These folks hurt themselves and hurt others.
We don’t want to control others. God doesn’t control us so why should we demand control of others. Instead, we want to release potential. We have the power to release potential or we have the power to constrict it.
See others as unique. God has given each something special and too often they’re waiting for the right time to show it. Believe in another person early and often. Show them they mean something to you. When we release potential in someone else, they will do amazing stuff.
I believe it’s necessary to give someone the benefit of the doubt to release the potential she has. Be patient with someone who makes a mistake. They will get better if they’re believed in.
We should remember and keep remembering what we like about someone, even when something else about them isn’t that likable. They may
handle pressure well, or they may be funny. They may also be hard to please. Be deliberate in looking at their positives, otherwise the other stuff may always come to mind. Let them do what they do well and leave the rest to the Lord. God’s got this.
I know we often think people don’t change but I think they do. We can move people from being angry at or hurt by us to being accepting of and helpful to us. It’s not manipulation. It’s believing in them. But it will never happen if we want to control someone else.
One of my favorite stories, if not my favorite, is the feeding of the 5,000. It’s the only miracle told in all four gospels, which could make the case that this is the most important miracle Jesus performed since it was the story that had to be told.
The Lord goes off with his disciples to be by themselves. But people follow. A lot of people. They come to hear Christ, and, if sick or with a disease, to have him heal them or a loved one. In one of the most wonderful descriptions of Jesus’ character, Mark says “Jesus saw them and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
It must have been a beautiful day, since the people stay for hours. Jesus stands and speaks, telling longer stories filled with characters who do good and others who don’t. He tells short riddles or parables, challenging his audience to open their minds and hearts to a different way of seeing the world, inviting them to see that God’s kingdom is right there, that there’s a better way to live, more to believe in than they trust, more kindness surrounding them than they’ve experienced.
You can imagine he didn’t talk the whole time. He must have sat down and rested and thought. People were more patient then. They didn’t have anywhere to go, no practices or meetings to attend or TV to watch. It was a beautiful day, and Jesus, well Jesus exuded hope, faith, love. They believed him.
The day grew on however. Jesus was finished finally. But so many stayed, not going anywhere, waiting. This is when the disciples break in. They said it was late and Jesus should send the people away, so they could buy something for themselves to eat. That’s when Jesus floored them. “You give them something to eat,” he said.
You know what we rarely if ever hear or understand at this point? Jesus’ disappointment. We hear his challenge to the disciples, but we don’t hear the disappointment in his voice. And the thing is he’s not disappointed
that the disciples don’t believe a miracle is about to happen. No, it’s not that they don’t have enough faith or vision to see what might happen in the future.
He’s sad because they talk and act as if they’re in control now, or that they want Jesus to be in control of the crowd, and they get to be the one next to the guy in charge. They’re acting like anyone else in a position of authority. Nothing of what Jesus said got through to them. They’re still thinking and talking and acting like their religious leaders in Jerusalem would, like Roman centurions would, like too many people in positions of power do when they have control and other don’t.
You do know the disciples could have said or asked other things, right? They could have come to Christ more innocently and said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could stay here and somehow we could all eat together?” It would have seemed naïve but still it could have been said. They could have asked if the kingdom of God includes feeding people. They may have told Jesus that they had seen some kids who were hungry and some folks who didn’t have any food, and “Well, we were just wondering if there is anything we could do before they have to leave and try to find food. After all, who knows how many even have food. What do you think, Jesus?”
How happy would Jesus have been then?! But they didn’t. The disciples muscle in and get to crowd control, breaking this up before it gets out of control. They see nothing but problems coming and problem people.
Jesus doesn’t though and that’s ultimately what matters for us. He tells the disciples to stop trying to control them. “You give them something to eat.” You feed them. Don’t control. Feed.
Don’t control. Release potential. Don’t control. Believe.
Our scripture this morning first talks about how children need to respect their parents. This is a point made as far back as the Ten Commandments when God and Moses had a talk. The first commandment, number six, that deals with people to people relationships is about the child-parent relationship. Honor your father and mother it says. Respect them. This is not the only place this issue is raised. Proverbs 23:22 says, “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 10:1 tells us there are all kinds of complications between children and their parents: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.”
It’s obviously never been easy to be a parent. Probably never been that easy to be a child either, as scripture talks about not sparing the rod and spoiling the child if you do. But how bad can it get? Another Proverb tells us very bad: “Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction.” Another version says, “…on murdering them.”
Our relationship may be fraught with hardships, worries, fears, anger, abandonment and betrayal. I pray for parents who are estranged from their children, the love and hope of their hearts. I pray their children may be led back into relationship with their parents.
This very short Ephesians scripture is nothing if not balanced. Of course, it says children should honor and respect their parents. Rightly so. I know one family that used to permit their son to call his dad by his first name. He was only twelve years old or so at the time he started. They let him. That’s never going to happen in my home with my children. I work too hard to be their dad not to be Tom. Anyone else can call me that. But my children are the only ones who get to call me dad, and I’m dad only to them.
It’s a right and a privilege and a responsibility to have our children respect and honor us as their parents.
Yet we immediately hear the other side of this. Fathers, that is, parents, are not permitted to provoke their children. In other words, we’re not permitted any behavior. We can be wrong. Our words or actions can be over the line. It can be our fault. It’s largely our burden to help them from feeling aggrieved to the point of provoking enmity toward us.
Scripture doesn’t give us the right to control our children but to feed our children. Sometimes this takes the form of strength and courage to set boundaries. Other times, many more times, it takes the form of encouraging, listening to them, sharing their lives and interests.
Ephesians tells us we are to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Discipline does mean a certain amount of structure. But too often and easily discipline is taken to mean penalty or physical or verbal punishment. It can of course because it’s not like children must never be punished. But if that’s the go-to idea that someone has about discipline then the other side of the coin that tells them they better be careful not to provoke their child also applies.
Let me put it this way: Discipline is not about control; it’s about building up through boundary-setting. It’s about clarity and communication when a child needs to be redirected. That’s why the author also says a child
must be brought up in the instruction of the Lord. Both discipline and instruction convey the idea of teaching and learning, not pain and punishment. Besides that, how many times did the Lord ever seek to punish someone? I’m not aware of a single time.
Don’t control children. Feed them. Instruct your child. Teach and lead and discipline and set boundaries. Feed them love and encouragement, and they will continue on that way.
Let go and let God. When the urge to control strikes, set it aside. Keep faith with the Lord. Give someone else the benefit of the doubt. Your trust in them will have its reward.
Can the church say Amen?