I’m slowly working my way through the book You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner by Joel Osteen. Today, after reading the Gospel passage from Matthew 9 and praying about whether or not I’m a “new wineskin”, I came across this sentence in Chapter Two (“Run Your Race”) of Osteen’s book:
I first read the sentence in the context of this portion of Osteen’s chapter, which is all about not letting what other people think or do control or rule you. And in that context “get free from controlling people” makes sense when we try to make the most of the gifts God has instilled within us to live according to God’s will.
But when I read the sentence again, with a different emphasis, I saw “get free from controlling people” with new eyes.
As in the ways that I control other people, or at least try to. How badly do I need to “get free from controlling people”?
How much of the anxiety and depression I experience in my own life come as a result of feeling guilty when my loved ones do not act, speak or believe as I would wish them to? If I’m being honest, I would say a lot. It’s a sinful state of mind I’ve taken to confessors on multiple occasions. And clearly, I’m still working my way through it.
And while you might not look at me and guess that I’m suffering from any “addictions”, some of my most grave behavioral choices come as a result of my own disappointment with not being able to perfectly control the world around me. I can write this in my journal, I can even type it here on the blog for a few people to read. And yet, this compulsion to feel guilty or at fault when something over which I have no control happens is a part of my continuing struggle towards sanctity.
In searching for some wisdom from the saints on the topic of independence, I found this lovely quote from St. Catherine of Siena:
If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!
If I am what I “should be”–indeed what God created me to be–I don’t waste time, energy, or sinful behavior reacting to things over which I have no control. If I am what I “should be”, I take the energy I squander stressing out about these things and set it to the service of those around me, to the work Jesus calls each of us to do.
Can I let go of this particular set of “shackles”? I think it will be, as many things in my life are, a work in progress. But tonight, when I’m standing in a friend’s yard watching the world be “set ablaze” by fireworks, I will be praying for the strength, the courage, and the freedom to be the person God created me to be.
A question for you: From what are you seeking freedom in your life?
Updated: My friend and fellow Patheos Catholic team member Tom Zampino of Grace Pending shared two insightful “Osteen related” posts from his blog. I think you’ll enjoy both: