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Who is in control?

June 16, 2012

I was watching the news last night when I saw a report about a guy who called 911 because the sandwich shop did not make his sandwich exactly as he wanted it.  It seems that they put on too much meat and not enough mayonnaise.  As I watched it, and heard the ribbing the announcers gave him, I felt sorry for the guy, even if he did sort of deserve it.  Sadly for him, I saw the story repeated twice more that evening and today it is all over the internet.  If you want the details google “sandwich 911 call” and you can have your choice of reports to read.

As I thought about it I began to think that the issue here, other than him being a little bit loopy, is control.  He wanted things exactly as he wanted it and was not able to get it and he was upset.  While I might want to congratulate myself on how much smarter I am than that hapless fellow I am reminded of Soren Kierkegaard’s admonition that “comparing ourselves to the badness of others is a bad way to get better.”

It strikes me that what that gentleman wanted was control.  He wanted to be in absolute control of how things were in regard to the sandwich.  You might make the case that, as a customer, he had that right but in the end he took his struggle for control to an extreme length.  I am not so sure we are all that different.  It seems that much of human interpersonal conflict comes down to a struggle for control.

As we approach Father’s Day, and I wish all dads out there a happy day, I’ve been thinking about how the struggle for control plays out in the lives of husbands and fathers.  I always find it interesting that, on Mother’s Day, most Christian exhortations center around how wonderful mothers are while, on Father’s Day, they seem to focus on how wonderful fathers need to be.  The overall focus, in general, shifts from praise to exhortation.  The whole thing might be summarized “Man up and do your duty!”

How does the subject of the struggle for control fit into this scenario?  To begin with, God pretty much predicts this struggle in Genesis 3:16; he warns Eve that this is coming.  Down through the ages, and in much of the world today, the Church thinks it has the answer to this struggle with the model of the husband’s leadership and the wife’s submission.  But somehow the struggle for control never goes away.  Both the man and the women are fallen and both have the same character that we do and, yes, that the 911 sandwich guy does.  They want control.

As long as we fail to acknowledge our fallen inner desires for control this tension will remain.  In the worst case, the husband’s leadership becomes authoritative or even abusive.  In the worst case, the wife’s submission becomes subterfuge and manipulation.   The veneer of leadership and submission actually hides, rather than reduces, the battle for control.  With this in mind, I’d like to offer a pledge we might want to consider on Father’s Day.

There are a lot of manly pledges out there that “real men” and “courageous” men are invited to take and, probably, in churches tomorrow, many will be invited to take.  What if, without speaking into the “roles” at all, we came up with a marriage pledge both husbands and wives can take?  How about something like this –

“In our marriage, we have decided to love each other to the limit and to sacrifice the most important thing we have – ourselves.  We are going to compete, not for control, but to see who can care for, listen to, forgive, serve and value the other the most.  We intend to compete to see who can give of themselves the most to increase the dignity of the other.  We desire this competition be a race to a photo finish in sacrificial love.”

Even as I write that my woeful inadequacy to actually do it overcomes me.  I can see I’d need grace from God and my wife on a day-to-day basis.  But doesn’t that competition sound better than one to control?

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From → Christianity

2 Comments
  1. Thank you Tom. I always enjoy your musings which so gently provoke one to ‘think again’ about many issues in the Christian life.

  2. Mrs. Anna-Marie Dreyer permalink

    Hi Jessop,
    Thanks for your thoughts. .. makes me think of that lovely song in Eliza Dolittle -“!” Aah wouldnt it be Loverly !” if we could do that.

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