My pastor said on Sunday, “Autonomous. The Greek word is ‘auto-nomos’ meaning self-law, or “law unto oneself”. It’s appropriate for adolescents to begin to face developmental changes and grow independently from their parents, but when we resist the leading of God in our lives, we act autonomously and may miss what God intended for us.”
The other night I had a little moment of “kairos” with my wife and kids. We were home together and talking about ‘the future’. My daughter asked me, “dad, what kind of school will I get to attend for high school?” I didn’t know how to respond. My son asked me if he’ll have the same friends all through high school that he has today in 7th grade. I couldn’t give him a false sense of hope, or lie to him, so I said, “I don’t know what God has in store for you.”
“What does that mean, dad?”
I jumped up off the couch and found 10 clear marbles in our kitchen junk drawer, and brought them back to the living room. I knelt down in front of the kids and held 5 marbles in each hand and said, “There are two ways to hold these marbles. One way is to clinch them tightly like this.” I made a fist with each hand and had the kids try to pry my fingers open to take the marbles away. We laughed for a while together.
“There’s another way to hold these marbles.”
I opened my hands up and showed the 5 marbles in each hand, but kept my palms open. I told them that each one of the marbles represents one fantastic thing of value in my life. One is my son, one is my daughter, my wife, my house, my job, my call as a pastor, my health, my cars, my vacation plans, my parents, family, friends… I made the point pretty clear.
“God has the final call on our lives, and He has the right to take the marbles if He wants to.” I can’t control anything in my life, other than my own choices to do what is right or good, and my responses to what happens to me (good or bad).
My father has often told me, “Reid, you either react to, or respond to what happens in life.” The difference is that when you react it’s often out of anger or emotion which you can’t seem to control, but when you respond you consciously make a decision to do the right thing based on your level of understanding consequences for actions.
How do you hold onto the things of value in your life?
Do you hold onto them tightly, with a clenched fist, hoping against all hope that God or someone else doesn’t wrestle you to the ground prying your fingers open to grab them out of your hand?
Or, are you able to release valuable people, jobs, hopes and even fears up to God’s will in your life by holding your hands loosely, so that God might have His will be done in your life? What would it look like for us to really “let God’s will be done” in our life and in this world, by holding loosely, the things we think we have control over?
Are you really ‘autonomous’?
Do you really have that much control over your path in life, your job, your kids, your spouse, your health? Sure, we need to protect our family, guard against the enemy gaining a ‘foothold’ in our life, battle against people taking advantage of us… but trying to control aspects of our life “autonomously” is not what God intended.
The first expression of ‘autonomy’ in the Bible is found on page 3. Before humanity can even get off the starting line, we find Adam and Eve “hiding” in the bushes because of their expression of “auto-nomos”, taking the law into their own hands, thinking they could outwit, outlast, and outplay God. They’re hiding because they found out what ‘shame’ feels like. They began thinking they had more control over situations than God would allow. This sense of hoarding control is what is opposed to God’s intention of life for humankind.
When we control our lives, our future, our family, our health… we are acting in a way that is ‘auto-nomos’, or law unto ourself, and it’s not God’s intention. Ephesians 5:1-2 reads, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” I love the Apostle Paul’s wording in this. “Imitate God, or follow God’s example.” Act like God, not because you have to keep the law he demands, but because you are dearly loved children of God. Jesus, because of his love for you, gave up his auto-nomos, and gave himself up for us. Wait, he opened his hands loosely and let go of the life he could have tried to control, and became a fragrant offering to God.
The bookend of Ephesians 5 speaks against “auto-nomos” in vs. 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The opposite of ‘autonomous’ is submission to one another and submission to God. When I hold the valuable things in my life loosely, with an open hand, God is honored by my reverence for Christ.
“Dad, do I get to go to our local High School in 9th grade?” my daughter asked.
“I don’t know, honey. But I do know that God’s plan for us is far greater than anything we can imagine. Let’s let God lead us to that when the time comes. We can either hold onto things tightly or… “, I paused before kissing her forehead while tucking her into bed.
“Loosely.” She said.
And I clicked off the light and closed her bedroom door. “Good night, sweet girl. I love you.”
“Good night, daddy.”