There was once a bumper sticker that said, “God is my co-pilot”. I grew up believing this. The notion of God as my co-pilot seemed somewhat enlightened, in that I was acknowledging that I was not going through life alone, but that God was on my team. Then several years ago, I heard the phrase afresh “God is my co-pilot”, and I was completely aghast! For God to be my co-pilot inferred that I, as the pilot, was in the number one seat and knew more than my co-pilot. It was then that I surrendered the pilot’s seat to God and I took my rightful place as co-pilot of my own life.
Some may think that this philosophy is apathy on my part. “Amy’s unsure of her life so she’s giving up control so she doesn’t have to be responsible.” Or, “Amy’s on this spiritual path, so of course she has to say that God is in control.” But in this slight move from the pilot’s seat to the co-pilot’s seat, I assure you that I have never lived more fully than now. God can see the big picture of the universe and has plan for how I can interact in it and find a deep sense of fulfillment, much better than I could ever determine. Is this easy? Absolutely not!
Since the 17th century and the advent of scientific thought, humans have been seeking to understand and control every aspect of our lives, from atoms to black holes, from our health to our relationships and everything in between. More than 400 years later, this need to control is deeply ingrained in who we are as human beings. To release control is not only counter-cultural, it takes an extraordinary amount of awareness and conviction.
This notion of releasing control is found in Matthew 10:39, when Jesus is instructing his disciples. Before he sends them out to minister, he tells them, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” This seems puzzling; what does it mean?
It means the ultimate release of control; to hand your life over to God, and in that handing over, we are promised an experience of all that our lives are meant to be. The things of this earth are distracting and tempting – we strive after money, possessions, reputation; what people think of us and how the world views us. We’re generally selfish and controlling and we view the world for what we can get from it. When we are so tightly commanding our life and pursuing worldly things, we actually lose the very essence of who we are. Jesus invites us to rediscover our essence and find our life in following him.
As someone who is willingly making the choice to co-pilot my own life, I admittedly sometimes find myself back in the pilot’s seat. I believe that God is gracious – if He finds me crawling over Him to take over the controls, He moves over. When life seems to be spinning out of control, I realize it’s me who’s in front of the instrument panel. Surrender is a daily choice. Am I going to trust the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, or not?
If we believe God to be trustworthy, then the process of surrender is straightforward, clear but not easy. I believe the promises that God makes in the Bible; promises to “never leave or forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6), promises “to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), promises to “strengthen me and help me, and uphold me with his righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), and so many more.
Because I believe those promises, I am willing to trust God when life feels uncertain or scary or too big for me to handle. At those times, I remember that it’s not me that has to pilot. It’s my role to watch what the pilot is doing; to learn from my master teacher; to pay attention and do my part. But it’s the pilot’s role to know the course and steer the plane and get us to our next destination safely, and I trust him to do just that.
Q. How do you see people today behaving as co-pilots to God? What is the result of their “control?”
Q. Why is releasing control difficult for us?
Q. What steps will you take this week to trust God more fully?
Recommended Book: BJ Gallagher, “If God is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats (Hampton Roads), 2011.