The Illusion of Control

My family and I attended a magic show years ago while on a summer vacation. The “magician” was gifted with sleight of hand and the illusion of gravity-defying tricks. The finale of the show was a “floating” rose drifting mid-air from his hand across the stage. But from my angle it wasn’t so magical. I could see the fishing line attached that was controlling the movements of the rose. It kind of ruined it for me.

I recalled that memory this morning as I am praying fervently over a situation involving my oldest daughter and granddaughter. I was thinking about the ways in which I have lived like this magician – under the illusion of control. We live with certain expectations about our lives, families, and especially about our children. It hurts deeply when a child departs from the “show” we’ve created. I can see my oldest daughter now struggling in many similar ways. But I know something that she does not yet. I know the God who sees the heartstrings attached. And I am grateful….so very grateful.

It is funny to me how something that was once so painful in my own life has become a comfort as a watch it play out in my daughter’s live. God is so good. I have learned personally just how mercifully kind He is to us. It is a gift when He exposes us in our illusions of control. It is grace when we can see that He is the Sovereign Lord.

This reminded me of the story of Hagar in Genesis. Hagar and her child had been sent away, out into the wilderness. She had no control left whatsoever over her own life or the life of her child. She knew the gig was up. Hagar had reached the end of her hope. When their water ran out, she put her son underneath a bush and went away. “For she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die” (Genesis 21:6). She sat nearby and began to sob. Her despairing heart grieved their inevitable doom. But, mercifully, this was their end. God saw Hagar’s heart, and He heard her cries. “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water”. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy the drink” (Genesis 21:19). God opened Hagar’s eyes to see what she could not see before, while she was still under the illusion of control. The streams of living-giving water only flow in the exposure of our own barren heart. God sees the heartstrings. He allows them to be severed for our own good. He cuts the cord to strip us of our illusion of control. Then He moves in mercy and great love to meet our truest need. He is an Amazing God! He really does work everything together for our personal good and the good of the children after us.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

This is one of the most overused passages of Scripture there ever was. When we are hurting deeply, it can sound like a platitude offering little comfort or hope. But take heart, the show must go on! Indeed, it will. The Sovereign Lord holds the strings that control the movements of the rose. And the rose floats gracefully before our very eyes.