Control Freak: Letting It All Go

I’ll admit it, I’ve come to become a bit of a control freak. My first name is typically defined to mean strong, manly, and courageous. I have personally defined that (more so through deed than word) to mean that I don’t need anybody. I try to live my life that I can always be steady, reliable and solid. You can count on me!

AJ’s the guy that has it all together. The one that nobody has to second guess. The guy you can count on to get stuff done and to get you out of a pickle. You don’t have to come behind me because I never left something half done, or done wrong. AJ just does.

I have to laugh while writing that paragraph because it sounds so absurd to just write it down because I know none of that is true, but it’s how I’ve lived my life. Always.

One of the most practical ways I’ve lived this out is with money. I’m extraordinarily good with money.

Ok, the pastoral side of me understands those are weasel words to get out of the underlying issue:

I’m greedy.

I want as much as I can get. I hate spending money. Hate it, hate it, hate it. So I try to avoid it to almost an absurd degree. I view my savings account like a video game, counting up, hoping to end life with the highest score of all. As if some numbers on a screen that were hoarded away for years would make any difference to anyone at all?

Oh I suppose they might make a difference to someone then. It just won’t be me.

A lot of it is out of fear. I’ve never not considered myself dependable, reliable and trustworthy (even when others would consider otherwise!), and part of that is financial stability.

But this is a terrible way to live your life. Stability is great, but I have had an unhealthy obsession with making sure my stack of acorns for winter is as tall as possible.

This particularly came to a head for me last November. I was worrying about things 5, 10 years out, worried if I could ever save up enough money. Worried about my income. Worried that unexpected expenses might come up. Just worried about anything and everything in general.

One day I woke up and did something completely unnatural to me. Something you don’t do when you’re worried you don’t have enough.

I wrote two checks out. One to my church, and another to an orphanage we support in Africa.

I drained my account of six months of scrimping and saving, worrying and tossing and turning.

I did it because it was ruling me, instead of me ruling it. It was a terrible place to be.

Until today, I told no one about this. I kept it secret. I have wanted to write this down for a long time, because the experience was incredible. I was always worried that writing about that would sound like bragging, when in reality it was one of the greatest acts of desperation in my life.

My fear I wouldn’t have enough was ruling and ruining my life. I was desperate to get out of it, so I did what desperate people do and did something drastic.

And. It. Felt. Amazing.

The reality I learned was that I still had plenty of money, even after dumping my accumulated savings, that I wasn’t going to go starving anytime soon. And I knew that if all the emergencies came up as I had prepared for (kind of like how the US military plans to have enough resources to handle two full blown simultaneous wars, I had always planned my savings to sustain numerous simultaneous emergencies, just in case), God would be all I had.

In other words, I had been putting my faith in myself. I had usurped God’s role in my life. My faith was in my job, and my bank account in my ability to pay the bills every month. I didn’t need God much, if at all.

When I gave some of that away, its grip loosened on me, and I could put my faith back where it belongs.

It’s always going to be a struggle for me to make sure I’m ruling money and money isn’t ruling me. It’s just one of my many weaknesses and I need to manage it.

And generosity has proven to be the greatest antidotes to greed I’ve ever found.

I wish I could say that when I give, I give because I believe in what I’m giving to. I do. Very much so. But my main motivation is to ensure my money is not ruling me.