The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Self-control in the Spirit

Surrender and let love pull you in

Most mornings I wake up with The List: people to contact, deadlines to meet, everything I didn’t get to yesterday. I bolt from bed in a panic, already behind. Everything that follows feels rushed. At day’s end, I sink into sleep battered. My own schedule has beaten me up, and the first blow came when I was barely awake. Life seems out of control, and my chaos controls me. This isn’t a good way to begin the day.

There are other mornings when praise nudges me into consciousness. Words from the psalmist frame my first thoughts: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name” (Psalm 103:1). Of course, The List quickly crowds in, but those early morning blessings wash over the day’s duties. I receive everything more readily as a gift, and by nighttime I surrender to sleep. My life still seems out of control, but praise whispers the promise of a larger order that contains the chaos.

The Spirit’s self-control isn’t some white-knuckled discipline manufactured from within. I have a black-belt in that kind of self-control. The problem is that everything I try to manage slips away from me, and I run in circles to contain it. I become the man who tried to chase down a rainbow. It can’t be done. If you try to chase down a rainbow, you’ll miss the show. The best way to deal with a rainbow is to stop—and wonder. That’s what true self-control does: It slows us down to the speed of praise.

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