Are you a bit of a control freak? Do you like to control every.single.thing? I am. Well, I was until I began losing control and life’s so much better.
I’m in a control recovery program. It’s called Jesus. I’m learning that a lot of my control issues were really a type of temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.
Go with the flow would never have been used to describe my personality. NEVER. I still need five minutes for deep breaths after a surprise change of plans. I’m learning to embrace changes, but I’ve had a lifetime of practice with my control habit.
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I was strong-willed and controlling in preschool, maybe the womb.
Even at ten, I had a handwritten spreadsheet for when all my stuffed animals would sleep on my bed. I taped this chart to my closet door to keep everything fair and tidy.
I color coordinated textbooks and folders in high school. After creating a detailed catalog of songs, I alphabetized my cassette mix-tapes.
Now, balancing our budget and organizing the checkbook makes me happy in weird places inside my head.
Being a military spouse, taught me how much control I don’t have over my life.
This army wife life with little control has been a growth experience for me. We don’t get to plan where we are stationed; we often can’t plan family vacations or even date nights. Sometimes we don’t get Thanksgiving or holidays together last minute.
Learning to love my husband through the Army curve balls has taught me to let go of my ideas of perfect and see the greater gift of God’s perfecting me: gentleness, forgiveness, and humility.
Sometimes growth brings growing pains, but I’ve learned so much about flexibility being a gift to my family and myself.
One thing I’ve learned is that my desire for order and cleanliness is often more about trying to control my life than good housekeeping. Having my house clean, plans made, and neat little budget gives me this feeling of having control over my life.
But it’s really an illusion . . .Control is more than an illusion. It's a lie we use to avoid trusting God. Click To Tweet
…or more than an illusion: it’s a lie I use to avoid fully surrendering to God and accepting His plan for my life.
At any second the illusion can be shattered: the car breaks down, someone gets sick, the army moves my best friend.
All of my planning and preparation have value, but they aren’t a real source of security. Even a huge bank account could be wiped out by a national banking crisis. Even years of healthy eating won’t stop cancer. I never had real control over my life.
The weird thing is learning to lose control was a relief.
No one was expecting me to keep the world spinning. Even with all the practice I have being neurotically in charge, often the best I can manage is damage control and survival mode.
Frankly, I only looked like I had everything together when life was smooth sailing. The minute crisis struck, I would be shrill and harsh trying to keep everything together.
After a few years of hard heart work, I’m occasionally able to hurdle some speed bumps without face planting, but I’m still battle my desire for my happy little illusion of control.
But I had to learn that I can only control my reactions to what happens around me. And I am so glad I stopped taking responsibility for things I couldn’t control in the first place.
Are you in that hard place of struggling with an inner control freak?
It feels like you’re responsible for everything? When you miss something or hurt someone you beat yourself up? You expect perfection from everyone around you, but yourself most of all. You don’t give yourself grace and don’t know how to offer it well to others.
And you’re exhausted, emotionally and spiritually. God wants you to lay that burden down.
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV / Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I can’t explain how losing control is a lighter burden. For years I believed my life would dissolve into chaos if I stopped micromanaging, but it hasn’t. It’s better taught me to live.
I have a few beginner tips for losing (the need for) control:
- Spend time with God. He really IS in control. Knowing His voice in my head gives me direction and peace. Letting Him be the master of universe if pretty freeing. I can have more reasonable expectations for myself.
- Accept what you can control. Hint-hint, it’s mostly your reaction to the rest of what happens to you. Be gentle, be humble. Breathe. Very few things are emergencies even if our emotions suggest otherwise. It’s ok to wait to react. See #1.
- Make choices that please God: be a good steward of the money, time, children, and seasons of your life. You’ll be better able to deal with emergencies after wise decisions over time.
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Losing control and having more ‘go with the flow’ abandon, accepting life’s roller coaster ride – isn’t Hallmark movie perfect. Now, I don’t get everything done. Christmas cards don’t get mailed on time. When you let your kids take over washing the dishes, they can chip the dishes (or leave the forks dirty).
But, I’m starting to be able to see that the real chaos was trusting in my human frailty and sinful nature, believing the lie of having control in the first place.
Now, my house is less organized, but my new, messy trust, flying into the Father’s arms is so darned beautiful.