You Are Not the Boss of You

When it comes right down to it, who really is in charge of your life? Who calls the shots?

It’s become very common in modern America to answer in so many words, “I do.” We believe that no person or group should be able to tell us what we can do or say or think. And as the following video suggests, we seem to increasingly believe it’s even legitimate to define aspects of our own reality:

My aim here is not to debate who should use what bathrooms. It’s to encourage us to ask a larger question: should we trust in our own devices to direct and define our lives as we see fit?

Granted, if you believe you’re just a random collection of matter and energy, it means that you are essentially a cosmic accident. No one is ultimately “in charge” and there is no thing or person “above” us to care what we do. The universe is impersonal, so it doesn’t have any feelings or judgments or goals.

If that’s what you believe, then you’ve certainly got as much claim over your life as anyone. You can say with a straight face, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” You may have irreconcilable problems with other aspects of your life—like finding a reason that the strong shouldn’t prey on those weaker than themselves, or identifying any kind of ultimate purpose or meaning for life, and so on—but that’s a conversation for another day.

On the other hand, if God created you, then you are not your own. God has authority over you just like he has authority over the rest of the universe: by virtue of the fact that he is your maker. Most of us already recognize this principle in several ways in our ordinary lives. For example, we believe that artists own their work, and they have a right to decide who can use or have access to it. Or even more to the point, we instinctively believe that parents have appropriate authority over their children. Kids are answerable to those that brought them into the world in all kinds of important (and beneficial) ways.

But we need to go further. Because God created you, you were made with a particular purpose. You have certain “design specifications” that fit that purpose. And doesn’t it make sense for us to live in accordance with that design? For example, a toaster usually works reasonably well if you use it to toast bread or a bagel. But if you try to round out your breakfast by using your toaster to make a fruit smoothie, you’re going to have a mess on your hands. And it doesn’t make a difference if you think your toaster should be able to make a smoothie, or if you really want it to make a smoothie. It just won’t work in the end. Reality has a way of being extremely stubborn. The same is true for us. We may, at times, think it’s a great idea to live in a fashion that we weren’t designed for. But sooner or later, we’ll have a real mess on our hands. And will that mess really be worth it?

One final point. It’s worth considering whether you should really want to be the person who is ultimately in charge of your life. At first that might seem like a silly thing to question. Of course you want to call the shots! But take a minute for an honest appraisal of yourself. How often do you make mistakes in judgment? How often have you made decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time but eventually had negative consequences? Do you always feel confident in charting the course of your life—that you have all the information and perspective that you need? Or are you sometimes confused, or do you have doubts about your choices? How often have you felt foolish…and for good reason? In other words, do you in fact think you have resume that qualifies you for the job of directing your life on your own, not answering to anyone else?

Or, at the end of the day, do you think it’s a wiser choice to place yourself under the authority of the God who crafted you according to his own good purpose, the one who has perfect knowledge, infinite wisdom, and matchless power to lead you on the path toward the satisfaction and joy he has intended for you? Shouldn’t we look to him to provide definition and direction for our lives?

Yes, that will inevitably limit your choices. His commands may seem puzzling at times. And it will be uncomfortable and difficult in the short term, particularly in a world that often refuses to acknowledge him and his rightful claim over all that is. But in the end, it will be more than worth it. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” (Psalm 34:8-9, see also Mark 10:28-31)

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