A lot of guys introduce their wives as "my better half." My Karen was more than that. I've told many people, "She made my half so much better." She really did. In so many ways.
My girl has been in heaven for over three years now. I really miss her. Her laugh is irreplaceable. Her unpredictability made for lots of crazy moments. Her curious mind made her always interesting to be with. Her walk with God made her wise and magnetic. Her hugs and prayers and insights helped me navigate many storms.
Yesterday was one of those days when I missed her more. I was looking through one of my spiritual journals - in this case, one from some 30 years ago! And as I read something she said to me back then, I realized how much I miss the mirror she was for me. The mirror that helped me see things about myself that I needed to see but couldn't. Here's how I reflected in my journal on our conversation that morning.
"As I got up early this morning, I said to Karen, 'There's a lot I have to make happen today." She gently reminded me - 'Don't make it happen, honey. Let God make it happen.'"
Then I wrote: "And there is my lifetime tug-o-war with God...I make it happen without even knowing that's what I'm doing."
Now making things happen doesn't sound like a bad thing. We should be leaders. We should be difference-makers. We should do whatever we do, in the Bible's words, "with all our heart" (Colossians 3:23).
But "make it happen" leaves little room for God when it starts to become one of its dictionary synonyms. "Force; compel; pressure; require; coerce." This is going to happen. It's going to happen this way. It's going to happen now. It's going to happen, no matter what.
That kind of thinking and operating is pretty built-in for us goal-oriented people. But this insistence on driving an effort has been known to lead folks into all kinds of painful mistakes.
"We need money - and we have to have it now." So we load up the credit cards to "make it happen." And end up in a self-made "debtor's prison."
"I want to be married!" So we settle for whoever we can get at the time. We made it happen. Now we get to live for a lifetime with our panicked - but mismatched - choice.
"Make it happen" means we keep trying to fix our husband, fix our wife, fix our kid. And the more we push, the more we lose the battle that really matters - the battle for their heart.
It's a very short trip from "make it happen" to control freak. Which usually leaves a trail of people feeling used, stepped on, bitter, wounded. Because people become a means to an end instead of the divine image-bearers the Bible says they are.
And those who are driven have a hard time letting God drive. Even if it's God's work they're doing.
But there's wonderful peace and relief when we understand the Jesus-method for us to get results. It was in fact talked about in the very Scripture I had just read when I announced to my wife that I had to make a lot of things happen that day.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:3).
Branches don't make fruit. The vine does. The branch just displays what the vine creates.
So it turns out that God's the doer. God's the One who makes it happen. I'm His instrument to accomplish His plans, not mine. To do it when it's His time, not mine. To do it His way, not mine.
And that's such a relief! It's not about me doing things for God. It's about God doing things through me. So as I spend time with Him, reading His Word, listening for His heart, He leads my heart into His plan, His timing, His way of getting it done. Then I work with all my heart, free in knowing the results are in His hands, not mine.
Watching God make things happen is much more exciting and fruitful than wearing myself out trying to do His job.
So that tug-o-war with God I wrote about in my journal years ago is now not much of a war. I've seen what happens when I try to force it or rush it. So there's a lot less tug on my end of the rope.
Just before I sat down to write this today, my regular Bible study included this great statement: "He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes" (1 Samuel 3:18).
I'm good with that.