Hormones, Kites, and Letting Go of the Need to Control
I endure winters. It’s not my season. I long to live in the light. I need sunshine to slip through my eyes so my brain kicks up my serotonin levels. Whether we like it or not, part of what makes us who we are has to do with hormones. Doctors don’t know why exactly, but sunlight boosts this mood-enhancing hormone level. On sunny winter days, you'll find me outside.
It was Saturday, and the sun was shining. The girls texted to say they wanted to ride their horse. “Come on,” I replied. I was on the back porch, stepping into my rubber boots.
Jeff and I saddled Classy (or Lux— long story) and had her ready to go when the girls got out to the farm. Naomi and I stood outside the gate while Liv rode. She noticed how the light was changing from dark to light in the big hayfield to the north. It was beautiful, mesmerizing. A cold breeze, steady from the northwest, swept the shadows of puffy clouds across the golden field.
“Dandy, the wind is good for flying kites, don’t you think?” She knows I love flying kites and it wouldn’t take much effort to get me on board, besides I rarely say no to my grandbabies. Jeff was with Liv so we grabbed kites and headed out to the big field we had been admiring.
Jeff and I had bought a "fancy" kite at a specialty shop in North Carolina last spring. It snapped together in no time. Naomi held the string while I positioned its face against the wind. Her estimation was correct. The wind was perfect. The kite soared upward, steadying itself against an invisible force that held it. The string tugged against the resistance, signaling to Naomi that it wanted its freedom. She indulged, letting out ALL the string.
Liv finished her ride and came running across the field to join us. She grabbed an old kite we had gotten out the barn. It was a strange bag-like kite with no dowel rods. We’d tried it several times, but never had success flying it. It has a colorful array of streamers for tails. They wanted to try again.
Liv put her back to the wind while I tossed the kite to the sky. It twisted and turned and did a nose dive or two. Liv lives determined. She pulled the string taut, ran to create more resistance and found the sweet spot. The spineless kite looked like a squid as it danced up and down and across the winter sky.
When I got my turn at holding the strings, I wasn’t ready for what happened. With both kites, a current of energy traveled down from the kite into my hand. I could feel the pull, the resistance. My heart pounded in my chest. It might have been joy I was feeling, or it might have been adrenaline; I’m not sure, but I know I was happy, so very happy.
That Saturday was a gift. I got the hormone boost I needed, and I experienced joy so intense it threatened to overwhelm. The other bonus, I got to play with my granddaughters. Gratitude was the only adequate response.
Kites fly because they resist the wind. It’s a simple enough concept that kids can fly them, but I’ve been experiencing another kind of resistance. I sat down to write about it one day and the Holy Spirit gave me insight that has helped me with my struggle. I’m hoping it might speak to you as well.
Resistance isn’t a word we use all the time, but it doesn’t intimidate us. We think we know what it means. At least I did until I looked it up.
The first definition I found had to do with the physics of electrical currents. Since the only electrical issue that I was particularly interested in was the fact that my nerves seemed on end, I looked up an article online to get the psychological perspective on the word.
The article described resistance as the need to control. The writer related how those who feel resistance say they want freedom, but what they really want is life to be the way they want it to be. They want control.
“When we long for things to be the way we want them to be, rather than the way they are, that’s not a quest for freedom. That’s resistance. Especially if what we want flies in the face of reality… including the reality of our own resistance…
What exactly is it that we are resisting?
The circumstances of life.” *
I had read Luke 9:18-20 earlier that morning and had been thinking about the questions Jesus had asked his disciples. I began to consider that the disciples were dealing with their own resistance issues. The Scripture says Jesus was praying alone—with his disciples. (Oh, Jesus and the paradoxes!!)
“Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (v.18)
What was it about this prayer retreat that positioned Jesus to ask these probing questions? It was a quiet place. They all had stilled, or at least Jesus had, after feeding multitudes and picking up the leftovers. The disciples struggled with restlessness, finding it difficult to settle down. They were recovering from an adrenaline rush. It’s hard to rest immediately after taking part in a miracle!
The need to control feels like restlessness. It is not passive, nor neutral. Resistance causes us to seek an outlet. When the silence of prayer descended, the disciples worked to rest.
Were the disciples dealing with their own resistance issues? Were they considering who Jesus was and what He was up to? Were they wondering where life would take them with this teacher who multiplied bread and fish and who was drawing so much attention from others? How could they position themselves to benefit from their relationship to him? Where was this going?
There were a lot of unknowns.
Before the disciples could follow in freedom, they would have to confront their need to control what others thought about Jesus and how that reflected on them.
It is likely that Jesus already knew what the crowds were saying about who He was, but He asked so the disciples would consider their own motives. Jesus’ intent was to have them consider their reality in his presence. Jesus was helping them to come to terms with the fact that they were walking against the current and not with it. Whether they recognized it or not, they were influenced by the crowds, by the opinions of others, as all humans are—at least, all humans I know.
“And they answered, ‘John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.’” (v. 19)
As their answers hang in the air, they consider their own opinions. The disciples take a collective deep breath as they wait to see where the conversation is going…
Jesus then asks who they think He is. Peter answers. “The Christ of God.” (v.20) Jesus is the Messiah. As I imagine it, the other disciples nod in agreement (except for maybe Judas).
Scripture doesn’t record a response from Jesus to Peter’s declaration. He gave no affirmation for having the “Sunday School Answer.” Jesus left the truth about who He was hanging in the air so they would consider whether they really believed He was the Messiah. Were they ready to act in faith based on the truth that Jesus was the Son of God?
Jesus, with two questions, brought the disciples into the present. He helped them consider their resistance regarding the opinions of others as well as their inability to control those opinions. He help them face their reality. By calling them to consider their resistance, Jesus set them free to follow him in freedom.
As long as we live upon the earth, we will face some resistance. We will always battle the need to control our circumstances, to face the temptation to go with the crowd, and the need to have clarity before we act.
During those times of resistance where we feel stuck and unable to move forward, we need to steal away with Jesus. We need to be open to his questions, not as accusations but as opportunities to voice our confession concerning who He is.
Jesus’ mission wouldn’t have changed even if the disciples had not gotten on board. Life is never static. Control is an illusion—and a trap. It depletes the brain of serotonin. Ask me how I know?
I’m grateful that Jesus let me slip in with him and his disciples on their retreat. It has given me the courage to allow the current of God’s love to meet my resistance, resulting in new energy and new insight into my struggle to live free from the need to control.
Today will you consider with me that Jesus is asking you and me the same question, “Who do you say that I am?” Let this be our confession: “You are the Christ!” This is a confession that leads to freedom, to joy.
God's gifts are good. He uses all things to teach us when we open our hearts to learn, to listen, and to answer his questions honestly---especially as we face resistance. Let's give him control of the string and face the wind head on. He wants us to soar.