Friday, April 17, 2015

What Is Left When We Relinquish Everything?

A few years ago I started praying over my friendships.  It wasn't the first season of prayer in this area.  I had shared with my dear friend and prayer partner how I had a longing for more connection and sweetness with women in my life.  She said, "Let's pray over this."  God was so faithful to strengthen existing friendships and bring new women into my life - women who really love me - women whom I pray for, give to, share with, listen to and cherish - women who show up on my doorstep with flowers or a Starbucks for no reason whatsoever.  I'm beyond blessed.  

I've always had this habit of taking a weekend away at least once a year for my own personal retreat.  I pack up my paints, my camera, my Bible, my journal and my tennies and go somewhere lovely alone for two whole days.  This year a few of those friends whom I had prayed for decided we would do this get-away together.  At the last minute, one of us got ill and couldn't make it, so it was just me and my sweet friend, Christine.  We headed to San Simeon and got a room at a little inn there.  If you have never done this, or it's been long enough that you don't remember the sweetness of the last retreat you took, I encourage you to put one on the calendar asap.  It doesn't have to cost a lot.  You can go somewhere local for a day if an overnight won't work.  Swap childcare with a friend if your husband can't provide a day of caring for your children.  Just provide time to separate from life, regroup, gain perspective and rest. 

You know (or at least I pray you do) how it is when girls of any age have a sleep-over.  We stay up, chat our hearts out as we solve the problems of the world together - at least our little worlds.  Lately God has been inviting me to grow out of the habit of attempting to control others.  {You can read about that here.}  Girls, this hasn't been a perfect and pretty journey.  I've cried tears of grief as I feel myself releasing my oldest son.  I've felt confused as I wonder what takes the place of directing him and setting firm limits with consequences.  I've sensed the freedom God is providing for both him and me in the process, but with each additional relinquishing, I feel more residue of the fear that has been the trigger to years of a control-based thread that ran through my parenting.

Now I'm finding, this thread runs through my marriage too.  Yeah, baby.  Not my proudest moment, but you need to hear it, especially if you may have these leanings too.  You know how God gave curses to Adam and Eve and the snake in the garden after they all sinned?  The curse given to Eve was that she would desire to rule over her husband, but he would rule over her.  Without getting into a theological debate here, I want to say, "thanks, Eve."  I sure experience the fallout of that curse.  I would have been capable of bringing that on my own head without her help, I'm sure.  Either way, I find that I want to prescribe what my husband will and won't do - especially when it comes to how we parent our sons.

Why do I feel this drive to control others?  I'm discovering in more personal ways that the root of control lies in fear.  When we fear, we grasp at straws - and we shove God out of the picture (either quietly or boldly) as we take over "knowing how things should be" and often sharing our expectations with others around us.  You know, how we "share"?  ... "Hun, don't do that!" "Babe, you didn't let them stay up that late and eat THAT did you?"  "Don't say that around the kids, they'll start to copy you," and on it goes.  We prescribe the way others should behave because we are sure if things don't go as we expect all hell will break loose - literally.  In our attempt to keep things solid, we actually create a mess.  It may not show on the surface for years, but believe me, a habit of control only leads to two reactions from others - they either comply (agree on the outside, but never engage their hearts in the agreement) or they rebel (either boldly or passively).  Who wants that? 

So I got to the place where I had to let go.  I just had to.  Piling on rules and more rules and consequences that would happen if those rules weren't followed is not going to keep my son from the perils of adolescence.  The good news is that God moves in concert with our willingness.  As I have opened to release, He has met me and blessed me with greater peace, freedom and grace.  A deeper calmness fills our home.  My boys show love more freely.  Laughter pervades our days (instead of tension or the occasional stressed session of raised voices and hurt feelings).  We have a sweet family.  Even so, this pattern of control has been a part of our life and God saw I was ready (and even willing) to learn to live without it. 

I found myself asking God what would fill the emptiness left as I let go.  His answers have been surprising.  I have been given control in exchange for control.  I'm gaining self-control.  When I feel like correcting my son, telling him what to do, engaging in the power struggles we are so experienced at falling into, I stop.  I quiet my heart.  I turn to God.  I let go.  I have control - over me.  I have also been given freedom and trust in exchange for control.  With that has come peace - you know that famed peace that passes understanding, that's the one.  As my friend reminded me this week, we can't dictate what our children will choose anyway (and my sweet son isn't even choosing poorly yet - it's the darned fears that tempt me to board the control train time and again). 

I've come up with a little formula for myself in this process.  It goes like this:
1. Decide what I will do.
2. Let them decide what they will do.
3. Pray like crazy.

That first line - decide what I will do - is all about healthy boundaries.  I'm not talking about boundaries where I am secretly manipulating others to do what I want.  You know, the way we can say something but underneath we aren't leaving anyone in the room any real choice or room to fail.  No.  Not that.  I mean, I just decide what my limits are and I share those with my loved ones.  Then I just live within those and let them make their own choices - without my expert advice, opinion and guidance.  This stuff is uber-practical.  The other night my exhausted six-year-old was fighting sleep.  He screamed at me in the height of his tired stupor: "You can't make me sleep!"  I just said, "Oh, you are so right.  I wouldn't even try.  You are in charge of your sleep.  I'm not.  You can stay awake for the rest of your life if you like.  I'd like you to sleep because I care about you, but I would never force you to sleep."  To this, he replied with tears, "But, mommy, I'm so tired, I just have to sleep!"  You see, when there is no power struggle, the fight often is over.  Ingenious.  Amazing.  God-ordained goodness.  {After all, He is the author of will and choice}. 

Another sweet tool has been the family meeting ... but that will have to wait til next week.  Can't wait to share about it with you, though.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
Where are you in the process of letting go?  Are you finding yourself stuck in demanding that others do it the way you think it ought to be?  Are you letting go, but grieving the losses that come with any process of relinquishing?  Are you a pro at release?  I'd sure love to hear and as always I'd love to pray for you wherever you are in the process.  Share here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
Linking up with ....


Leah Adams said...

Patty, what a great post. I, too, am a controller. I slap on my 'Mrs. God' badge far more often than I should (which is never). Over the years, though, I have learned that there is not one ounce of profit in doing that. It only frustrates me, and hinders God's work. I totally enjoyed your post. Stopped by from #GraceTruth! Have a wonderful weekend.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Leah, for coming by and for commenting. I love the "Mrs. God badge"! Not one ounce of profit indeed - I'm seeing more deeply through the lens of having a teen now what it means to let go and really trust. God is so gracious to allow us to grow in increments. Come back to Hearts Homeward anytime.

Mary said...

This is awesome! As a mother of two grown sons, I learned many lessons while they were growing up, in fact we grew up together. Being a teacher, I always provided choices for my sons and then they chose-both choices were ones that I could live with. I guess this was controlling but to my sons they were making the final choice unless that backfired and I made the choice for them. Yes there is control here and as my kids great older I learned that by releasing a lot of it to them, they felt free to come to me to help them with a decision. Somehow it has worked but I am still in the process of letting go of complete control over everything in my life. So blessed you linked this up at The Weekend Brew.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thank you so much for coming here to Hearts Homeward and sharing your journey as s mom with me. It is such a great practice to offer choices. I often think teachers get training all us parents could use (classroom management, positive discipline, motivation techniques, etc). It is a personal learning curve, to be sure. I'm so grateful for God's patient leading and support.

Paola Collazo said...

My eldest turns 11 soon. He really is a lovely boy. But lately I have been wondering if I need to setup more rules, just in case. But I hear a small whisper telling me that perfect Love cast out fear, not to be afraid of a new season, He is in control. Thanks for the confirmation Patty.

Lux @ About Life and Love said...

We'd really make ourselves a favor if we let go of some people in our lives (read that somewhere). We can only control ourselves. It took me a while to realized and accept that though. But it's liberating and fulfilling once done. :)


HeartsHomeward said...

Such wisdom, Lux! Thank you for sharing here. It is a process. I'm so grateful for both God's patience and His persistence.

Jennifer Clarke said...

Patty, this post hit home for me. I've gotten pretty good at relinquishing things to God, as He's required it of me often over the past couple of years. But you've prompted me to consider how I might be clinging to control over people in ways I've never realized. I'll be chewing on this one for a while, to be sure.

I'm glad you linked up with us at Grace & Truth! This will be my feature at A Divine Encounter on Friday. :) May God continue to use your words to point people toward Him!

HeartsHomeward said...

I am so glad this blessed you. I find that the same lessons and truths have layers. Even though I learned boundaries and release many times, each time it goes a little deeper and I comprehend more and surrender more. Raising a teen is like boundary boot camp for me. God has a use for this season for my good and to bless our family. I always love when you come by and read and let me know you were here. I am so honored to be featured! Thank you.

Jennifer Clarke said...

Yes, you're right about the layers. That's a good way of looking at it. My oldest is 11, so I'm thankful to you for sharing your mesons from boundary boot camp! :)

I'd like to point my readers toward your social media profiles. I've found your Bloglovin' and Facebook pages - please let me know if there are other profiles you'd like included as well. Thank you again for such an excellent post!

HeartsHomeward said...

I'm so glad you came to Hearts Homeward. Your words of encouragement blessed me. This teen parenting is not for the faint of heart, but I know it is a tool in God's hand for our good and theirs. Come back anytime.