The true path to right living: God must be The Boss
A sign outside Conyers Church Of Christ, in Conyers, Ga., not far from where I live, got me thinking and thinking and thinking.
It was so clever, brilliant really — and so true.
It said in bold letters: “God Wants Full Custody, Not Just A Weekend Visit.”
Wow! Simple, yet powerful. It works on multiple levels, and in language we understand immediately, since “custody” is an ever–present word in our society these days.
There are newspaper and magazine headlines aplenty about custody battles among Hollywood stars and other celebrities. And those addicted to the myriad detective, true crime and forensic-evidence shows on TV are well acquainted with the legal term “chain of custody,” which defines whether rules of evidence-gathering and storage have been followed properly.
Loosely speaking, having custody of something means having possession of it with considerable control over what happens to it.
That sign is an awesome reminder that God wants full possession of us, wants us to surrender ourselves to His will, in such a way that we defer to Him in every way, in every matter, every day.
In the movie, “Get On Up,” a “biopic” of the life of soul singer James Brown, there is a scene at the end, in which Brown’s character — after reflecting on a life filled with crushing defeats as well as soaring triumphs — turns to the camera and says: “I paid the cost to be the boss.”
It was a moving, defining moment. It made me want to cheer after nearly two hours of watching Brown ‘s struggles, as he rose from abject poverty, abandonment by his mother and trouble with the law to become one of the most celebrated entertainers in the world.
But that sentiment, which might seem so right, is dangerous. It is poisonous, as deadly as Cyanide, Ricin, Sarin, or Anthrax. Actually more deadly. It is an anathema, directly opposed to the Word of God as recorded in the Bible.
As Christians know, God is the Boss. He, not us, has paid the cost. As the Bible tells us, His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, himself fully man and fully God, died on the cross on our behalf to pay the debt for the worlds’ sins. A debt we — not one of us — could ever pay.
Yet, is it difficult, even for many Christians, to live every day as if we know God is boss. It is difficult to surrender control, to not figure we can handle things ourselves. After All, we’re smart, or at least educated, and we try to be good people. We help others. We’re good to our parents, spouses, or significant others, our children and those we encounter each day.
It is not easy letting God take control of EVERYTHING, even the smallest things, but especially the big things, the ones we worry about most. A wonderful movie I saw recently — “War Room” — handled this issue well. One of the female characters was frustrated because her husband, a highly “successful” pharmaceutical salesman, was so busy trying to be successful, to make all the money he could — any way he could — that he had become an arrogant jerk, who ignored his wife and young daughter and had little time for anything that didn’t seem likely to raise his business profile.
As a result, his family was miserable. There was plenty of discord, and every second the family spent together was as tense as scouts trolling a mine field. There were always arguments and sharp words across the dinner table. The wife would sometimes snap back, trying to defend herself, or get her husband to see the error of his ways.
As a real estate agent, the wife encountered an elderly widow, who was putting her house up for sale. The older woman had been widowed when her husband, a career soldier, was killed in war. The older woman confessed to the main character that she, too, had been frustrated with her husband, had been bitter and blamed him for treating military life as his real wife, rather than embracing her in that role.
She said she found no peace until she took the matter to God, started praying every day for Him to show her how she could have handled things differently, and how she could ease her troubled mind and heart. The answer, she explained, was that she should have stopped battling with her husband, should have let God work on him.
That advice convinced the younger woman she should take the same approach, and she did, praying daily for God to watch over her husband, to help him see where he was headed, and help him reclaim his love for his family. The couple’s young daughter saw her mother’s new approach and decided to quietly follow it, too, petitioning God to help her mother and father “love each other again.”
The results were remarkable.
Taking that approach is not easy, especially for men who grew up in a society where most of the noise around us tells us that a man has to be strong, doesn’t totally submit to anyone or anything. Doesn’t expect others to fight his battles.
One of the strongest lessons the culture taught me as I grew up is that “a man handles his business.” Anyone who doesn’t handle his business, run his household, pull his weight, is not a real man.
Overcoming such pervasive teaching is difficult. It takes a lot of prayer, meditation on the words of God, and interaction with other men who are serious about making that journey, too.
It is not just a problem for men, however. Submission is tough for many women as well. It goes against the human will. It is seen as weakness, losing control. The human mind fears a loss of control.
Finding the desire, the willingness and the strength to let God take control — or as the familiar saying goes — to “let go, and let God,” is one of the greatest challenges of being a Christian.
It requires uncommon trust in God, in The Holy Spirit. Especially in this world where we see so many people surrender full control to some professed “holy man,” who makes good speeches and is able to convince them to follow him and his “blessed prayer cloths” to paradise, only to discover he is a complete charlatan. Many have been led to their deaths, following such crooks.
That Church Of Christ sign works on a simpler level, too. It reminds those of us, who — supposedly — have bought into following Christ and accepting him as lord and savior, that just popping in to see Him during a weekend worship service won’t cut it.
God welcomes drop-ins and visitors, of course. But, at some point, we all need to discover that the only true, redemptive path is inviting Him to adopt us into the family that is called by His name, giving him complete authority over our lives, and obedience to his will.
He doesn’t want part-timers, or Christians in name only. He wants full-time believers, who understand the blessings that flow from letting Him call the shots.
Remember: God doesn’t want to share custody of us with anybody, or any thing.