I am really bad at admitting when I can’t handle something. I am even worse at asking for help if I already said I’d take care of it. Furthermore, I am really good at thinking that I can do more than I am actually capable of.
I’ve never really cared for Superman, I’m more of a Batman kind of guy personally. Superman is just too easy. He’s indestructible, has super strength, can fly, has laser vision, and even seems to be a pretty decent journalist. His only weakness is a super rare, extraterrestrial mineral that his enemies somehow have a pretty consistent supply of. Outside of that you just can’t beat him because he can handle anything. Despite my distaste for Superman as a cop-out comic book hero, I try pretty hard to be him in my daily life. I take on task after task, piling my schedule high because I think I have the super strength and endurance to handle everything. I say yes to things I probably shouldn’t because I want to impress people with my abilities and act like it was nothing. There’s a fundamental problem here though: I’m not Superman.
What I’ve been learning in my battle against my own schedule and the overcommitment that I have brought upon myself is primarily involved with two things (that essentially boil down to one thing, but I’ll get there): control, and humility.
My incessant work to manage my schedule and give myself to the various things that I think are important comes from an assumption that has proven wrong time and again: that I am in control of my life. This is a false assumption birthed out of an individualistic, power-based culture that tells people that if you just get x-y-z in order, then you will be in control of your life and nothing will throw you off of your desired course. This is a lie. We are not in control, and we have never been in control. Life itself, along with all the variable circumstances and processes, is given, not chosen. We are not in control of when we are born, where we our born, our genetic make-up, our surrounding societal structures, our socialization, our IQs, etc. Despite all of this we still try to think we are in control of our lives, yet all the while things like sickness and tragedy are universal and unpredictable, and ultimately death has a final claim on all the living. Depressed yet? Don’t be! We were never meant to be in control. We are creatures, created beings, designed to be utterly dependent on a good, all-sustaining creator. When we try to take too heavy a hold on our lives, we are effectively saying that God is not doing a good job of ordering the universe. Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life, says, “Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God’s wisdom, power, or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self on its own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the face of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up.” I feel overwhelmed when I try to take godlike control of my life because I am not God. Instead, I should be looking to God in prayerful trust because He is in control and is providing for me (Matthew 6:26). I don’t have to hold my schedule and my will for what needs to happen so tightly because my God “works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
My attempts to control the universe are revelatory of a deep-set problem in my heart, pride. I believe that I am so talented, strong-willed, and put together that I can take on more than the average person and not only handle it, but excel. If you were to ask me point-blank if I really think that way, I would definitely say no. The issue is not that I cognitively see myself that way, but that the deep-running intuition of my heart does, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s not surprising that I lean this way. We are conditioned from childhood to believe that we are the single most important and competent human who has ever existed. The reality is that I am deeply sinful. I am incapable of good apart from the work of Christ (Romans 3:9-12, 22-23). Even saved, I am in a process of being made more like Christ, and that work is yet to be completed, though I look in hope to the day that it is. Moreover, when I look to scripture, I see that I am not meant to carry the weight of everything. I am not supposed to be Superman, instead I am supposed to go in my weakness to Christ and find my fulfillment in Him. When Paul had what he describes as a “thorn in the flesh,” something hindering him from being all that he wanted to be as a person, God did not take it from away from him. Instead this happened, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I am not meant to carry the weight of the world, Jesus is. My job is to look to Him in dependence and weakness, and trust Him to give me grace and guidance.
All of this, when it comes down to it, reveals a baser lack of faith in God. When I try to take on the world in my own strength, I am putting myself in God’s place as ruler and sustainer of the universe. The reality is that I am weak, and I need to be reminded that weakness is a good thing because it makes me depend on God. I need to give up my death-grip on control, self-sufficiency, and busyness, and trust God to be God. I am not Superman.