Why we cannot seem to let go of "everything happens for a reason"

Over the years (hereherehere and here.) I have written a few posts on the phrase "everything happens for a reason." What I have failed to identify in these posts is what is really behind this phrase and why we cannot let it go in our popular Christian culture. 

It all has to do with control.

Humans are under the spell that we are in much more control of things than we like to admit. We are reminded of this false sense of control daily. We set the temperature of our homes at exactly 76 degrees. We use a remote control and take birth control. We decide when to use cruise control and we talk about pest control. We believe we can control air traffic and crowds. We teach others how to be in control of emotions while looking for the newest diet to help us control our weight.

Additionally it is worth noting how deeply we resist giving up control (which may be why the great religions teach the path of surrender).

When we believe we are in control of more than we really are, we project that others must also be able to control more than they really can.

For instance we think that the President of the United States has a lot of control over the economy of the nation. Or we think that meteorologists can really predict the future. Or we think a pastor can grow a church. Or we think personal determination will inevitably lead to personal success. 

image from:

image from:

With all the reminders of how much we "control" we can see why "everything happens for a reason" is difficult to let go of. It is the ultimate creed of the god of control. It is the idea that someone, somewhere has to be in control because to think that things are not somehow under control is too frightening for us to imagine.

The most zealous devotees to the deity of control will even admit that we may not know right now or that we may never know what the reason is, but to trust that everything happens for a reason. This can be said because the reason is what is important but the soothing reminder that control is, well, in control.

Until we let go of control as cultural god, we will continue to hear "everything happens for a reason." The more we hold onto control the more we will miss the message of Jesus who teaches us about how to live in trust rather than in control.

"Open Carry" Is Not About Guns

Here in Texas we have a legal situation where one with a gun licence can now carry their approved gun(s) out in the open. While this law is new, I have yet to see things here in Texas look like the Hollywood imagery of the wild west where people walked around with holsters ready for duels at the O.K. Corral.  

The struggle that I have had with open carry is not the proliferation of guns or the access to guns or the defense of the second amendment or any other political expression. Frankly, my struggle is around what is assumed in the symbol of open carry laws.

One of the things that open carry laws assume is that a gun gives one a sense of control over their life. The scenarios that I have heard supporting the need for a person to carry a gun are around protection of a potential victim(s). The gun symbolizes a strong sense that one can be in control of the world and what happens to them. That even if something chaotic happens, like a shooter in a movie theater, then those with guns can exert some control over the situation. 

The desire for control in the world is as primal as desires come. We all have a deep need to be able to have some control over our lives. There is a peace that comes with knowing that you can do things to affect the world around you. The desire for some sense of control is reasonable, normal and natural. There are few things in this world that give a sense of control than that of a gun. It has become the ultimate symbol of a sense of control - which may be why America continues to build more weapons even though American military power is unmatched. 

And so for all that open carry means, it seems to me that at the deepest levels, open carry is not about guns. It is about a sense of control.

Much of my faith formation over these years has revolved around Jesus. Specifically how at every turn of the story of Jesus there is a story, parable, teaching or sign of letting go of control and trusting in the Spirit of God to move in the world. From Jesus submitting to be baptized by his cousin, to not arguing with his mother at a wedding, to constantly being interrupted by children and even bleeding women, to praying "thy will be done", to allowing himself to be handed over, Jesus is constantly showing us to give up the pursuit of control. 

When I study that life of Jesus I see not a pursuit of control but a pursuit of surrender. Rather than promoting open carry I am inclined to promote open arms. Like the arms of Jesus open to the children coming toward him to the arms of Jesus on the cross open as the nails are driven through them, the open arms of surrender is the posture I desire. 

My first step is to give up pursuit of control. 


*Just a word, I recognize that I write this from a position from power and one who is often able to exert more control of my surroundings than many if not most people in the world. I do not know what it is like to be in a position of powerlessness or totally out of control. Therefore, I submit the limitations of my view as one who may only need to be addressing others who also are in positions of power.