“Did you do any homework today, babe?” My voice asked with curiosity, full of optimism.
“Well,” his voice shook uneasiness through the crackling telephone line.
My rage began to boil.
Deep breaths, Amber, my soul sought to comfort the anguish.
“What about working out or seeing a mentor?” My inquiry begged for relief.
“I’ll have to see,” his age-old reply wounded the “no” I knew would soon resound.
I am going to explode; the thoughts in my mind repeatedly swirled over that which I desperately wanted to control but couldn’t.
“Well, I’m still proud of you,” the words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
Where the heck did that reply come from? I thought as arguments flooded my mind.
My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you, the Holy Spirit nudged as I slowly swallowed my pride and told loverboy I loved him, would be praying, and wished him a good night.
The Desire to Control
I have to confess that control is something that I have struggled with since childhood, and it wasn’t until young adulthood that I realized the poison of its possession.
As a little girl, my parents often asked me if I wanted siblings. The squeamish “no” identified my desire to give orders.
In my teenage years, I attempted to rule over my guardians’ entertainment choices as if I were the leader and they were the followers.
By young adulthood, I desired perfection and order, manipulation and inflexibility to make me and only me happy.
In my relationship, codependency wasn’t helpful. I needed to learn to hold onto hope for people without trying to change them.
Even in adulting and finding a career, I have sought to direct and lead in many ways, even though I know God has a purpose and place for where I’m resting stagnant at the moment.
Between the smooth crevasses of the oak floor beneath my calloused knees and the palms of my clenched hands, I heard the gentle whisper to lose control, not just loosen control.
Extending my arms and releasing a death-grip on situations weighing heavy on my heart, I felt the Lord speak. I had to give it up. I had to give him up. I had to trust the promises through broken hopes and faltering dreams. I needed to surrender fully, His Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, Here as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6:10).
Like tape sticking to a package, I peeled myself off the floor. My feet now stood on solid ground as I left the burden off my shoulders at the foot of the altar.
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. – Matthew 11:28-30, ESV
Jesus’ voice resounded from the rafters.
Because, without realizing it, I’d been carrying around these packages of life, people, relationships, and jobs like they were from UPS for me to sign, seal, and deliver. But, at the exact moment I surrendered every ounce of control to God’s Postal System, the gifts I had been waiting to see, arrived faster than Amazon Prime Shipping.
In Genesis chapter 32, Jacob faces a similar predicament of longing for dominance, especially amid the unknown. After stealing more than a bowl of stew from his brother Esau, Jacob fully expects all of Hell’s wrath to come blazing like a furnace. Yet, when Esau runs to embrace him in love (Genesis 33), Jacob’s anxiety is met in forgiveness.
But that fulfillment, you see, does not come until Genesis chapter 33.
Meanwhile, in Genesis 32, day after day, Jacob had created “what if” scenarios that I believe many of us do when we get frightened about the unknown. Searching for anything sure to hold onto, we pride ourselves on the certainty of rules, laws, and assurances, forgetting that not even tomorrow is guaranteed (Proverbs 27:1, ESV).
Despite this turmoil of the mind, Jacob prayed and relied on God for protection and provision (Genesis 32: 1-32; Genesis 33:1-20, ESV). Alone until the breaking of day, Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32). He wanted to fix this mess he had made and know how the situation would turn out. He didn’t want to face tomorrow, predicting tomorrow was forecasted out of his predicament.
We, too, often want to have our problems figured out. But in these moments of fighting and uncertainty, the Lord will restore us. Like Jacob, He will change our names, and we will be stronger from the fight.
After gaining little advantage in his confrontation, the Lord conquered Jacob and changed his name to Israel, which means God rules. I find it no coincidence that this moment was a significant turning point for him.
Prior, Jacob’s anxiety involved fear, but now that he was alone with God, he needed to thank and remember His faithfulness. But you know what else he did? He questioned how God would now work in his life after all the sins and messes he had made.
Through crimson roses and thorn pricked fingers, the Lord scuffled the pride and self-reliance out of a man that sought authority. Jacob tried to match God, to take control, but the Lord was stronger; He always was, and He always will be.
Today, I believe we all try to hold onto our ways, whether they be the plans we aim to keep or people we try to boss around. For me, I struggle to trust God in the moments when I cannot see the future, or He scrambles up my plans to scrabble the fruition and beauty of His.
In the middle of our control-freak issues, in that place, the Lord blesses us there. But it’s only when we release control that we gain true freedom.
While I know that I have said things like this before, the day after I released this aching desire to command anything to bow to my name, God showed me the beauty of humbling myself so that everything may surrender wholly to Him. Although my innate urge for these quests seemed innocent and curious, I didn’t realize the sin of attempting to take God’s job and place it on my shoulders. Again, these were burdens and fulfillments of plans I was never meant to carry.
In resignation, I stopped telling my boyfriend what I thought he should do and encouraged him in what he desired to pursue.
At the foot of the cross, I bled my heart to God through mangled words.
“What’s my purpose?”
“How do I get there?”
“How do I live in the spaces between the not yet, but almost?”
“Why do I have these desires but fail to see them answered?”
“Lord, I submit these unknowns to you.”
From the corners of my messy heart, I asked friends to pray on behalf of me as I continuously walk through these struggles, especially the ones unforeseen and startling to my unplanned, neophobic soul.
Remembering that in the beauty of chaos, in unstructured days, and in releasing my powerless grip, there are unexpected blessings that pour forth in ways that only God can explain.
In my upcoming memoir, The Story I’ve Never Told, my memoir speaks of this fight for control. While I’ve conquered many past issues, it is obvious that our innate desire as humans is to understand what’s happening and plan for it. We like to know what to expect, and if you’re a spontaneous planner like me, ambivalence rings a void known as anxiety.
Painted in darkness, I struggle to see the light when questions fill my mind, or when I want desperately plans to follow through, so much so that I am willing to compromise anything to achieve it. But God never asked me to control this life; He asked me to live it and bring glory to His name in the process.
A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of his purpose will succeed in the end – Proverbs 19:21, TPT
Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? – Lamentations 3:37, NLT
May the words of Jeremiah be your prayer today:
I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. – Jeremiah 10:23, NLT
In a submission of surrender, abandon yourself to God’s rhythm. Do not be surprised when unanswered prayers get answered, but not in the way you thought they would, and miracles fall from Heaven cascade as your floodgates have lost control.