Noah almost jumped at Jack’s question but caught himself. “No, Jack. Sorry if I wasn’t paying attention. I may have been wandering back to the slavish lusts of the day’s business.” The group laughed. Joan blushed. But Noah merely smiled and looked back at Marcia. For just an instant, she caught his gaze, then dropped her eyes and turned awkwardly toward Jack. It was the first time he had seen her lose composure.

Noah noticed a slight rise in Jack’s chest, a tightening of his hands, a pinkish cast creeping across his left cheek. But Jack smiled. “Well, Noah, I suspect a whole lot more is going on in that sharp mind of yours than you are going to tell us.” Noah looked at the Bible on his lap. He felt no pressure to respond to Jack’s comment. He felt on top of things, in control. On the whole, it had been a good day, and he was eager for sleep. Sweet sleep.

Relieved when the Bible study was over, Noah walked to the parking lot slightly ahead of Joan. When he reached the space where he had parked the car, he found only a note held in place by a large stone.

The car was gone.

The note said: “Your car was parked in an unauthorized spot. It can be retrieved at the 285 Garage off Wadsworth and 285. Fee is $100—cash only.”

The Idol: “I Can Control My World”

We all tend to operate out of a faulty assumption that looks something like this: “If only I could control my world, life would be manageable and have meaning and purpose.”

Related to that assumption is an equally faulty one: “I ought to be able to control my world.”

Before you dismiss that last statement too readily, think about your life.

How much energy do you spend trying to manage your family life, your job, your life at church, your relationships? As you answer this question, you may come to realize you have sought the power to control your life with the passion of idol worship.

We all want control over the chaos of our lives. We don’t like unwelcome surprises, and we plan and work hard to keep them at bay. We think ahead about the consequences of our actions, and we are not pleased when someone—a child, a friend, a stranger—disrupts whatever order we’ve established in our lives.

We often try to gain control through rules. Consider all the rules that govern our lives. We have our daily “to do” lists—laundry, food preparation, washing dishes, driving children to school, keeping our bodies in shape. At work, we have sales to make, forms to fill out, patients to see, classes to teach. We have rules of ethics, rules of behavior.

And there is nothing wrong with any of these rules—unless we let them rob our lives of passion. The rules can become demands that take away the depth, vitality and thrill of life. In pursuing the things we ought to do, we often lose track of what we want to do. The rules end up controlling us rather than helping us control our lives.

Our quest for control also tempts us to acquire power over others because we assume that power equals control. Power and control seem to be potential avenues of meaning in life; they give us joy and a feeling of significance. Experiencing the opposite, being pushed around by forces and people outside of ourselves, makes us feel our lives are ruled by chance and are therefore without meaning.

Noah is a good example of the way people attempt to control their worlds. Noah believes he is a Christian, but he really is a stock analyst; his job is his source of meaning. His passion is the hunt for information to make a deal that will not fail. He gives himself deeply to what provides him a sense of power and control over his life. He spends considerable time prowling the Internet and reading reports in his area of expertise. He loves the chase, loves winning over others.

Noah goes to a regular Bible study not because he wants to learn about the Bible, but because he wants to please his wife and do what’s “right.” He has taken on many of the values of religious people because it is easier to be on the side of the majority rather than to suffer the judgment of those with whom he might differ. And this arrangement seems to be working for Noah. He doesn’t have to think in areas that trouble him. Instead, he is free to dabble in faith, know he has heaven ahead, and then focus his considerable talents on the real task: waging war at work.