I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
— William Ernest Henley
It was the mantra of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Do your own thing,” we chanted. “If it feels good, do it.” We wanted to be in the driver’s seat of life, a self-governing, autonomous, if-it-feels-good-do-it generation, answerable only to self. Moving forward into the ’80s, when Nike began pushing their line of apparel and footwear with the slogan “Just Do It,” we tipped our glasses in agreement to the idea and done just that.
Me, I was a young believer on my maiden voyage into the ever-deepening waters of sanctification with a recurring problem: I kept drifting back into those old habits, doing my own thing. The truth is, I wanted to hang close to shore and never indeed loosed my vessel from its moorings. As expressed by Henley in the classic poem, Invictus. I continued to choose my course in life. I would make the decisions, I would relinquish the captain’s chair to no one.
My prayers were entirely different from the ones Jesus prayed — the opposite, actually. As in Gethsemane, he prayed, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). My petitions would sound more like, “not your will, but mine be done.” And that seemed to work out pretty good until God must have cleared his throat and said, “Okay, Pat, you got it. Your will be done.” How different things became.
Life under my command was a train wreck. Spiraling out of control, each day sinking deeper into darkness, I found self-rule equaled self-destruction. Sex, drugs and alcohol exacted its due fare with one broken relationship after another, multiple marriages, always robbing Peter to pay Paul and continuously dodging the bill collectors. You might say I was the 20th-century version of the prodigal son (read the story in Luke 15). God allowed me to have the control I wanted, that I might learn how quickly life spins out of control when he is not in the driver’s seat.
Believer, young or old, don’t let your life become a train wreck. If you need help turning the reins over to God as I did; may I suggest the advice of Lauren Gaskill who writes:
“If you’re like me and you crave control, the remedy for change is prayer. Go to God and be honest — tell Him how you feel. Say, ‘God I confess I like being in control. It makes me feel safe and secure. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. But I know that being a control freak isn’t going to get me anywhere. Help me surrender control to you each and every day. Help me trust in you deeply, so that I will not fear surrendering that control. Help me remember that you hold it all.”