Saturday, April 4, 2015

Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak

I hadn't seen her in a month or so - not since I went to her home to help work out the kinks in her daughter's sewing project one Saturday afternoon.  As I rounded the corner in Target, on my quick jaunt through the store - you know, just zipping through for a few things - I saw her there, staring at the clearance items in the craft section.  I said her name and she turned.  We hugged the hug of friends who miss one another but can pick up where we left off no matter the time that has passed between our last connection.  As we chatted it all came rushing out - how the family has been so sick and she's been homebound caring for them all.  The conversation turned to our teen boys.  Good boys from good homes still turn into teenagers and the various hormones and challenges {and girls!} throw us all for a loop.  I told her that after only one year of being a teen mom I had this inner urge to walk up to every mom of teens I know, give them a hug, a gift card to Starbucks and shout, "You go girl! You are a rock star!"  She said, "Why doesn't anyone tell us it will be like this?"

Now, don't get me wrong - and hang in there, all you moms of toddlers, you'll be okay.  My son is amazing.  Really.  He's doing great for this age.  Compared to me and my trek through adolescence, he deserves a gold medal.  But still.  The thing is that these years are meant for launching.  I don't know about you, but I'm not so good at the letting go part of life.  I can organize circles around people.  I am able to direct, plan and supervise.  When it comes to letting go, I'm a hot mess.

The thing no one told me about being a teen mom is the refining plan of God.  It isn't so much about my son and his need to become his own person as it is about me and my need to make sure he'll be okay - and by okay, I'm coming to find out I mean my version of okay.  I had no idea how deep this need for control was in my heart.  It just doesn't rear its ugly head in the same way with littles.

Here, in the middle of my wrestling through release, God meets me.  He has been quietly whispering redemption over unfinished business I didn't even know existed in my heart.  It is for freedom that He set us free and He continues to relentlessly and gently pursue that freedom for each of us.  His oh-so specific touches come in unexpected moments.  He speaks.  I randomly picked up The Screwtape Letters (part of my resolve to read something written by C.S. Lewis every day because his writing clears the windshield and I see God more clearly through his lens).  Right there, hidden in the preface was this amazing revelation as C.S. Lewis describes the way he imagines hell:
I feign that devils can, in a spiritual sense, eat one another; and us.  Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one's fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one's own - to hate one's hatreds and resent one's grievances and indulge one's egoism through him as well as through oneself.  His own little store of passion must of course be suppressed to make room for ours.  If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish.  On Earth this desire is often called "love."  In hell, I feign that they recognise it as hunger.  
I feel this urge to assure you I haven't lived out my parenting life solely from this motive.  Whatever.  The point here is that this very motive - domination, suppression, control - has entered into my life as a parent, a wife, and probably to a lesser extent, a friend.  God in His mercy is weaning me of the need to control.  Like all weaning, it feels a bit raw as I muddle along to what is next.

Once again, this isn't just for me or even just for those of us with children.  When we examine our hearts, most of us will find places where we experience fear.  Fear leads to control.  Control leads others to two reactions.  They either conform, or they rebel.  Neither outcome comes from health and love.  We prefer conformity {mwah ha ha ... you ARE mine and you WILL do as I say}, but the truth is that conformity is external.  God wants more.  He knows what lies below the surface - in our hearts.  He longs for and moves towards obedience rooted in love.  To get us there He allows a vast opportunity for our free will and choice.  He risks our foolishness and sin so that we might choose.  I'm learning to follow His lead and allow those around me the same freedom - to fail, to fall, and ultimately to find their own way. 

What this looks like in my life is that I am confessing my blunders to my son while asking him to give me some grace as I learn how to release him.  I go to the Lord in prayer and confess my weakness and my deep need for Him.  I ask Him for grace to trust Him more.  I pour out my fears at His feet and try not to act on them in my relationships.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Trust doesn't mean promises that all will be well.  It means God will be with me when the stuff hits the fan.  Relying on Him doesn't mean others will go the paths I hope they will.  It means I can focus on my own walk and abiding relationship and leave them free to be found by God in theirs.

I am asking my son's opinion more.  I am giving him the reins in choices about his life.  I am stepping back while my husband steps in.  I am challenging my son with my ideas of what I hope he'll strive towards and asking him what standards he wants to set for himself.  It is so different from anything I've known.  Pressing down on him with more rules and consequences will only produce rebellion (outward, blatant rebellion, or passive aggressive sneaking) or a compliance that doesn't engage his heart.  As always, when it comes to Jesus, the way up is down.  The way to life is through the cross.  I'm dying again - to self-reliance and control.  Can you feel the breezes of freedom in the release?

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If you, like me, are walking into trust and letting go of control which is rooted in fear, I'd be honored to pray for you or just to say, "Way to go!" as you do.  Share here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.

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Linking up with:


Tara Ulrich said...

Visiting from the Weekend Brew. I think we all need to learn to lean into God and trust more! Blessings to you as you trust.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Tara! I love the old hymn that says, "Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Thee. How I proved Thee o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust Thee more." That is the cry of our hearts, isn't it? Thanks for coming and even more importantly, for sharing.

Angela said...

Oh boy, I am with you on this one! I had no idea that I had a problem with control until my daughter hit high school. And, like your son, she is a great kid. Letting go and letting her mess up was hard! And it held a very convicting mirror up to the rest of my life.
I appreciate your reminder!
Coming to you from Beloved Brew.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thank you. We are not alone. You give me great comfort in reminding me of that. The mirror is like nothing else I have ever experienced, good and hard - I feel the purpose of it in God's hands, though. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for letting me know you came. You are welcome to Hearts Homeward anytime.

Angela said...

I thought I'd add - she just graduated. Making her get her own breakfast, not always checking on her homework, letting her occasionally turn things in late, not telling her what to eat for lunch, letting her wear dirty uniforms, etc., etc., became very freeing and a few kinks fell out of my shoulders. She graduated with honors, turned down the wild parties, and is headed off to a Christian college with a ministry major. (Another learning curve!)

HeartsHomeward said...

Oh, this is it!! You nailed it. We can micromanage and drive them and ourselves nuts ... Or we can let them experience their choices and they grow into responsibility. We can remain much more connected and living when we aren't wnmeshed in control. I love the affirmation of the whole picture of your experience. Thank you so much, Angela.

Martha Brady said...

2 of my 3 daughters are now in their 40's, but i remember those teen years well. that was when i discovered i could no longer control my kids in ways i wouldn't have liked. you're right, much of my behavior WAS driven by fear. fear of all the mistakes they could make, the things that could happen to them. but at some point, i had to learn to trust GOD! that the work He started in my daughter, He would complete (just like He was doing in me!)

We all managed to survive the teen years...and lived to tell about it! we even grew in grace too. Now, we're on the verge of having our first grandchild who is almost a teenager. how great is that:)

HeartsHomeward said...

Your story IS encouraging. I am grateful you shared it here, Martha. I am truly in awe of how God is using this season in our family life to grow me and draw me nearer to Him. Thank you for coming by Hearts Himeward. You are welcome here anytime.

Mary said...

This too shall pass! I have two sons now grown and in their 20s and the teen years were very challenging but your journey is not only preparing you but your son as well. It is truly only with God that you make it through and learn how to let go. Blessed you shared this at The Weekend Brew.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Mary. We experience sweetness along the way. The things in which I put my hope are shifting - which is much needed. I am grateful for this because it is spurring me into places I wasn't going in my walk. I so appreciate your encouragement. Thank you for faithfully coming here and for letting me know by commenting.