I’ll admit that I’m a present peeker. I used to check my stocking so much before Christmas that my parents stopped putting anything in there until the last minute. If I checked my stocking before Christmas morning, I’d find a huge rock in the bottom of it. And for the first time anywhere, I’ll admit that I sometimes carefully opened packages and then taped them back up again. Don’t tell my parents. Please?
This hasn’t changed as I’ve gotten older. Just a few years ago, I was scolded for looking at the Christmas list my fiancé (now my husband) was making for me. He was genuinely hurt that I tried to ruin his surprise, and I actually felt bad. I’d never been caught before! Oh…and I was sorry that I ruined his surprise, too.
I peek at my stuff because I don’t like surprises. That apparently makes me a bit of a control freak, if you ask my friends. I never thought of myself like that. I don’t like surprises because I don’t like that little bit of time where I don’t know what’s going to happen. I like to know everything about everything! Does that make me a control freak?
It does, doesn’t it?
Okay, so I’m a control freak. I need to know everything, I need to have the last word, and I have to be the one directing a conversation or a situation. Me, me, me. Give me the reins! Let me manage the project! If it’s not going my way, it’s probably going the wrong way!
This need to know actually led me to a psychic the summer before my senior year of high school. I went with some friends, and we just went for fun. I went in knowing I shouldn’t have been there. I even went back to her once when I was in college, still knowing I shouldn’t. Way back in elementary school, I learned that Saul went to a medium and that God wasn’t very happy with Saul for that. I assumed God wasn’t very happy with me, either, although that didn’t keep me from wasting $30. Twice.
The problem with needing to have control over what happens is that it’s really not my job. Wanting to know what’s going to happen and trying to control what the outcome is—be it Christmas presents or my future—infringes on God’s territory. What happens to me in the next moments or the next years should be His concern, not mine.
That’s something Christians struggle with—trusting God enough to give all that uncertainty and control over to him. It doesn’t stop at wanting to know things. It includes wanting to have things.
I’ve looked at the people around me at different stages in my life and said to myself, “Look at her. She’s making all the wrong choices, but she’s got so many great things happening to her! She’s got a boyfriend and a great job and she’s so happy—and I’m not. Whyyyyy?”
Looking back at how upset I was that our lives were going so differently, it makes me mad…at myself. Would I have wanted her boyfriend? No way. Would I have wanted her job? Nope. Would those things have made me happy? Huh-uh. So why did I care?
I cared because I was peeking. Not even at my own stuff—I was peeking at someone else’s stuff. I was trying to monitor how I was doing by looking at someone else’s life.
This is ridiculous for a couple reasons. It’s silly to assume that what happens to other people—even people who are making choices that are very similar to mine—is going to happen to me. Secondly, I’ve been through times where everything is going great for a good long while and then everything falls to pieces without any notice. So just because somebody seems to have a great life doesn’t mean it’s always going to stay like that.
Have you ever watched a race on TV? Like a 400 meter sprint where everyone has their own lane? They all start in different places. They stay in their assigned lanes, and they don’t even look at each other—they just look at the goal.
That’s it. That’s the model. We all start in different places. We all have our assigned lives for this short sprint, and we need to keep our eyes on God and not look around. We don’t need to get discouraged or distracted by the progress others are making or think we’re better because it looks like we’re coming out ahead—that’s just as destructive as being upset because you’re behind.
Likewise, we don’t need to try to judge the outcome. Things can happen in the last two seconds of a race—or a basketball game or even a movie—that change the whole ending. Life is far more unpredictable than any of those, so it’s impossible to know how things will turn out based on what we currently know about our lives or the lives of those around us.
So, being the control freak that I am, this is a tough pill to swallow. I need to constantly remind myself that I can’t know everything, and I just need to pay attention to the race I’m running. My life is different from anyone else’s, and God’s got different things in store for me than He has for anyone else.
But I still might shake my Christmas presents this year.