People that know me well know that I'm pretty big on control. And while I would not go so far as to label myself as a "control freak," I think you could say I'm a bit of an "organizational freak." I like things organized. I like things to have a place and I like them to be in that place when I return to them. When I put something somewhere and it's not in the same place when I come back to it I often get upset or anxious. Perhaps I have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder. Being organized helps me to have control in my life. So if you were to look in my office you may see this array of books and papers and other items and think to yourself "How does he have any idea where things are when he needs them?" But I do. I have things organized in binders and my computer files are organized into neat folders. So if you came to me and asked, for example, what we served for dinner at BASE Camp on the Wednesday of 2007 I would go into my documents file, open my Youth Ministry folder and go into the BASE Camp folder and then into the 2007 folder, open up my Excel workbook for that year and go to the tab labeled "Daily Checkoff" and I could tell you we served lasagna and even tell you what adult volunteers provided a salad and dessert for us that evening.
Being organized like this helps me feel in control. I don't like surprises. I used to play chess a lot and to be a good chess player you have to be really good at thinking ahead. Thinking through all the possible moves you can make and what your opponent may do in response and then how you will respond to that, etc., etc. And I think that way a lot. I think about conversations before I have them and how people may respond to what I say to them and then how I'll respond in turn. This helps me feel in control.
So last week when the pastor went out of town and left me in charge there's a wealth of things to think about and do and take care of, because frankly he's more of a "control freak" than I am. When I first started doing this I took all kinds of notes as he led me around and showed me what doors to lock and unlock and how the heating and the air conditioning works and setting alarms and what to do if the alarms go off and yes, if they go off in the middle of the night I'll be meeting the police here at the building (and that's happened a few times). I even made a diagram of how he sets things out for Mass so that I could be sure things were arranged as he'd want them.
I was fretting a bit because I heard early on that there was a weather prediction that we may be getting 15-20 inches of snow over the next few weeks. And I thought "Great - just my luck we'll have a weekend snowstorm" and then I'll have to worry about snow removal and whether or not the priest is going to show up and everything else that could be thrown off kilter. But as the week progressed the predictions went down. It became 2-4 inches, then 1-3 inches, and then a dusting of snow. And Facebook has this feature where you can enter in little things about your life - what's going on, what you're doing, what you're thinking. And Friday I wrote something like "I'm glad we're not getting much snow this weekend so I don't have to deal with snow removal and making sure the priest can get here for Mass." I was feeling in control and safe.
Then Saturday morning came. About 10:30am I looked outside and I remember thinking "This doesn't look like a dusting to me." Three hours later I was shoveling snow and getting myself worked up with anxiety about the rest of the weekend. I no longer felt in control. But everything worked out. And I updated my Facebook status to say "Every time I think I'm in control I'm reminded who really holds the reigns." And some of my friends - including some of our parishioners - thought that pretty funny.
Who is really in control? Not me. As much as I may try to take command of my environment and events I'm reminded again and again that God is in control. No matter how much I may plan and organize and think ahead it's God's plan that I have to follow. And trust in that plan. Mother Teresa once said "I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." And that's the way it is for most of us. God lays a lot on us at times. And as much as we may try to control our lives ultimately we just have to give it up and give ourselves over to God. In the Gospel of Mark we hear of the man possessed by many demons. The man was not in control. But he trusted. He gave himself over to Christ and was set free.
We all have moments in our lives when we work really hard to be in control and find we're not. But our lives are full of demons that possess us and misguide us and may even lead us away from God. True faith is prostrating ourselves spiritually before God. Trusting in His plan. Trusting in His care. Trusting in his boundless love for us and desire in nothing more from us than to return that love. Return it in how we live, how we pray, how we worship, how we come to Christ. And then the demons that seek to possess us - fear, anxiety, mistrust, worry - will be driven out. We will be set free. We just have to remember who is really in charge.