Lessons Late in Life
I was talking to my grandfather in Mexico one time about how stressful it must be to have to deal with a neighbor who was trying to steal land from him, and I mentioned a problem that is causing me some stress. He said, “Aw, Derek, I never worry about anything. I turn it over to the Lord. You ought to try it.” His statement hit me in the face like a backhanded slap. Defensively, I thought, “Hey, look I’m a minister. I know all kinds of stuff about God and prayer. I don’t need a lecture about ‘turning it over to the Lord.’ I do pretty well for myself.” And then it struck me: I do pretty well for myself. Unlike my grandfather, I worry about everything. It never occurs to me to turn things in my life over to the Lord. I just don’t think that way. Obviously, I believe in God and the power that God brings to bear on everyday life, but my first reaction when facing difficulty is to rely on myself. I know I’m not a self-made man (no one is), God is the one who has made me who I am and given me whatever gifts I possess. So it’s not like I think that God is not a part of the whole process. I’m sure this sounds like elementary stuff to most of you, and I felt like a first grade Christian when it occurred to me, but I realized that I live my life as though God is a passive bystander on my journey. I realized that it’s easier for me to rely on God to take care of other people, but when it comes to me, I do pretty well for myself. But the problem is I don’t always do that well. I’ve been laboring all these years under the illusion that I was controlling my situation. But it has occurred to me that I haven’t been, nor can I ever. For many of you, that might seem like a self-evident proposition, but—I have a confession to make—to me it was a revelation.
“Turn it over to the Lord” used to sound to me like a cop-out, a way of refusing to take responsibility for your life. I guess that’s the point. I’ve been so concerned to appear capable, professional, in charge. But I forgot one thing: I’m not. At least apart from the God who is continually working through me, I’m not capable, professional, or in charge.
Now, I know people throw that sort of language around as some sort of incantation—“If you don’t get what you want, just turn it over to the Lord.” I’m less concerned about whether “turning it over to the Lord” gets me what I want, than I am about knowing that “turning it over to the Lord” is my duty. I realized that “turning it over to the Lord” is a way of admitting my total dependence upon God, a way of understanding that it is not me who controls my life. Turning it over to the Lord reminds me who I am in relationship to God.
And to think, all that time I thought I was doing pretty well for myself. Even for ministers, first grade is not always such a bad place to be.