Monday, January 23, 2012

My Addiction to Control

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
   and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him, 
   and he will make your paths straight
--Proverbs 3:5-6

Yesterday our pastor asked the Sunday school class what spiritual goals we have for 2012. One dear friend of mine talked about learning to surrender her sense of control to the Lord and this resonated with me. God and I have been going in circles with my control issues. I have an addiction to control, and like any other addiction, I can't grow until its dealt with. So God has been painstakingly, patiently, and lovingly helping me deal with it. I can't believe how far He's brought me during the course of this pregnancy. I was forced to truly realize and admit that I can't decide how many days my son will spend in my womb, how many days he will spend on this Earth, how much happiness he will have. I had to let go of my ideas and plans for his nursery, our finances, our jobs, our future. I nearly had a panic attack as God asked me to let go of what I believed I could hold on to. Yes, I understand control issues.

And that's when I realized my goal for 2012 and at the same time my prayer word for this year, sort of. I can't come up with just one word. Surrender is part of it, but its surrendering with the idea of being emptied out. My goal for 2012 is to not have goals, plans, or expectations. That does not mean to stumble about haphazardly like a feather being blown by the wind. This is foolishness. Proverbs 3 instructs the wise to have sound plans and use good judgment. But the danger in planning for control freaks like me is that we plan too much and set our hearts upon our plans. I trust on my own wisdom, I put too much stock in my plans coming to fruition, I can't be flexible, I get tunnel vision. It's my way or no way. 

The fact is that entering into motherhood is going to require me to think, feel, and behave in ways I never have before. I will pray in ways I never have before. I will dream and plan and hope in ways I never have before. All of this is beautiful...if I submit it all to the Lord. If I take my every dream, plan, hope, and idea to Him for approval. If I don't jump days, weeks, months ahead in my life. If I take each day as He gives it to me. Which is after all how Jesus tells us to live. 

So don’t worry about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will bring its own worries. 
Today’s trouble is enough for today.--Matthew 6:34

I already have people asking me, telling me, what my next ministry goals should be, what projects I should undertake. I find myself plotting and planning, but the Spirit isn't guiding me. I feel no divine encouragement, no heavenly spark of inspiration. This is not because I am far from God; this is because God has not yet revealed to me the ministry He wants me to undertake. I'm a people pleaser so I can be talked into most anything...but this is how you get so busy you miss your true calling. 

I realized that I can have a 'ministry' even while stepping back from other commitments. My grandmother has a ministry and she's a shut-in. She prays with devotion, she calls people to encourage them, she sends out greeting cards to let people know she cares. This is a ministry even if its not something you can sign up to join or read about in the bulletin. This is a ministry that Jesus sees and loves, because its the kind of work He did. I can do this kind of ministry anytime...pregnant, with a newborn, and beyond. If God intends for me to start or join a 'joinable' ministry, He'll let me know. He'll make it so clear that I won't have a choice. It won't be this crickety silence from above that I'm getting right now. 

But the even more important part of this surrendering/emptying out goal of 2012 is accepting that I can't make plans for my family/life. I can't make plans for my son because I don't have any idea what he'll be like. I can't say what I'll do this spring or summer because I have no way of knowing how labor and delivery will go (smoothly, I hope). I can't promise to visit relatives or go on little getaways or anything else. I can make no promises to anyone except to God. I can promise Him that I will rest when He says rest, move when He says move, and in all ways, submit my plans to Him.

You can make many plans,
But the Lord's purpose will prevail.
--Proverbs 19:21

This will be hard for me. Harder than my word for last year (commit). I don't like to give up my ways and the idea of being emptied out can be scary. I like to believe I'm in charge, sometimes I think I need to believe it. But I will never truly trust God if I'm secretly telling myself that I'm in control. I will never really feel secure if I'm relying on my own wisdom and plans. I have to let go, be emptied out, and surrender to really know God the way He wants me to and to live the life He has planned for me. 

People won't understand. It will look like spiritual laziness at times. That's okay. It's not about them. This is about listening for God and God alone to direct my plans. This is about waiting for God and God alone to provide when things look desperate. This is about acknowledging that God and God alone is truly in control of my life, my husband's life, our child's life, and the lives of everyone we love. It's not about me or anyone else. God and God alone. 

Commit (surrender, submit, abandon, let go, and empty out)
 everything you do to the LORD. 
Trust him, and he will help you.
--Psalm 37:5

Incidentally, God has brought to mind several songs which will encourage me through this journey. He knows how much music encourages me, He designed me that way. FFH's 'Come Undone', Sanctus Real's 'Whatever You're Doing' (which I've written about before) and the hymn 'I Surrender All' speak to the very nature of this journey. The difficulty in letting go, in coming undone, in trying to accept what you can't understand or see, in giving everything over to God. I know God will bring more songs to encourage me as 2012 unfolds because He is good and faithful and loving. That one thing I can hold onto as He empties me out of all my preconceived notions, expectations, and plans. 

The LORD will work out his plans for my life— 
      for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. 
      Don’t abandon me, for you made me.
--Psalm 138:8


  1. Hi Rebecca
    This is written in friendship so I hope you don't find it upsetting, but your post makes me realise and understand why I don't believe in God (or any gods). I believe I can live a better, more productive and meaningful life knowing that I am the one responsible for my life and not 'surrendering' to some mythical higher being. I couldn't bear to believe in a God who is responsible for the kinds of cruel and horrible and unfair things that sometimes happen to people or a God who supposedly controls my life.
    But each to their own and I wish you all the very best for the birth of your son. Motherhood is truly wonderful (and painful too!) in many and varied ways and I'm sure you will be an awesome Mum. It is very wise, as you talk about, to have no preconceived ideas or expectations and to allow yourself to 'go with the flow' when your little baby arrives and be guided by your instincts. So many people will give you well-meaning advice, but my advice (yes, I told you lots of people will give you advice!) is to follow your heart!
    Best wishes,

  2. Hi Charlotte,
    Thank you for your comments on my post and your advice for motherhood. :)
    I'm not a great philosopher or theologian, I get tongue-tied trying to explain the details of my faith. I know that while this post is about a struggle to give up my sense of control, at the end of the day I personally find a great deal of comfort in realizing that I am not in control because when everything falls apart, when I've made massive mistakes, when I've been deeply wronged...its comforting to believe that there is someone larger than me who still has a plan and that His plan is good. Without getting into details things have been stressful and have looked bleak the last few weeks and there is nothing I can do to be more productive or make things more meaningful. Nothing. Its out of my hands. I can either believe that I'm stuck that way, that its up to another human to change things, or that there is a loving God who has a plan for my life and that the plan is good. That's what I choose to believe. If its all up to me, then I'm screwed. While I believe that God's cosmic plan will ultimately unfold...I know for a fact that we have free will to make choices, and its usually that free will that causes pain and suffering in people's lives. I see God as a Father who guides us in the way we should go, leading us to be productive and fruitful (if we let Him, if we have a choice), but He doesn't make every choice for us. That's not what surrendering control is about. It's about doing it *with* Him, not letting Him do everything without us or us doing everything without Him.
    Anyway...I'm not writing this to argue you or anything like that, but I felt like I needed to expand/clarify if that's how my post came across. I'm actually quite excited about this season of my life and learning to not be so compulsive about my plans, especially as I become responsible for a new life.
    Hope things are well down under :)

  3. Rebecca, I went to school with Nida and I know your "Berry" family well. I just wanted you to know that I love your post and am very encouraged by it for many reasons. It spoke to me as I am a "control" freak also. And I am very happy to know that there are still young people out there following the will of the Lord.
    *Charlotte, your words are nothing new to me, as I have a couple family members who I pray for daily who have your views. I know God is melting their hearts and I will add you to my prayers.
    "If there were no tomorrow, no time beyond today, I STILL would want to follow, for there is NO better way"


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