Dave was the Best Man at my wedding. We had known one another for as long as either of us could remember, and in his speech at the reception, Dave told a story about our pre-school days. During recess, he claimed, most of our friends chose to ride around on the tricycles and pedal cars that the school provided. I, however, preferred to dress up as a policeman and direct the traffic round the yard.
I would like to be able to dispute Dave's version of things. Unfortunately, I can still remember the black and white striped elastic armband that my mother sewed together as part of my "uniform."
How much we humans like to believe we are "in charge" of things! And so much in the world around us allows us to persist in that belief. Our ability to control our health, our physical surroundings, even our emotional equilibrium far exceeds that of our parents' generation. And we carry the same thinking over into our careers, aspiring to become "managers" and "leaders"--to be in control at the very least, and if possible, to be "in charge."
Poor Paul in today's first reading! He has no choices left at all. Writing as a prisoner, he lays out what most of us would regard as two pretty miserable prospects: he may stay alive and remain in jail … or he may die. And even though he uses the language of choosing one fate over the other, we aren't fooled. It's obvious from what he has said earlier in the letter that the future does not lie in his hands at all, but in those of his captors. So all he can do is talk about which outcome he would prefer.
What I find inspiring about this passage is that Paul finds in this a reason to do … what? To rejoice! And why? Because his entire life is so completely Christ-centered that nothing that happens to him, neither of the gloomy paths that lie before him, could possibly fail to proclaim his Lord.
May we learn how to give up our constant desire to be in charge
of things. May we let Christ call us, move us, use us to ends we may never
fully understand. And may we trust with Paul's confidence that, if we can
once give up control of our lives, then whatever the outcome, Christ will
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