At first, this felt very uncomfortable. I’m a reserved, lifelong “good girl” who likes to know every step of the journey before she takes the first one.
I could say that I liked being in control because I value excellence. And I do. But if I were brutally honest, I would confess that it’s also because I often think I know best. Yes, I’m that humble.
But it’s deeper than that. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself: I believe that all results and outcomes rest on me. I’ve spent many years saying I trust God but then often behaving like some kind of demented, crazy woman as I tried to control and manipulate the results of my ministry and the beliefs and behavior of my husband and my children. After all, a thriving ministry, deliriously happy marriage and perfect children all depended on me working insanely hard and always making all the right choices. Duh.
In some weird, twisted way, this way of living made me simultaneously anxiety-ridden and secure. I was always anxious that I wasn’t doing enough or doing it right, but secure in the knowledge that at least I was the one calling the shots.
God knew I wasn’t going to give up control easily. Over the years, He had tried gentle ways to get my attention. He’d sent friends and family to voice concern. He allowed my circumstances to become overwhelming time and time again, hoping I’d loosen my grip on the steering wheel. Nope. My death grip remained.
Then, this fall, it all came crashing down. I was hit with a debilitating double whammy of excruciating back pain and critical anemia. I was nearly bedridden for weeks. I was so exhausted I could barely walk across my house, but I was in so much pain that the sleep I desperately needed often wouldn’t come. In my 20 years of chronic illness, it was by far the darkest period in my health that I can remember — not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
Finally, God had my undivided attention. I was too weary to argue when He again began to clearly prompt me to open up my tightly clenched fists. When I did, instead of feeling terrified, I began to experience sweet relief and incredible freedom. End of story? Hardly. It’s a process. I continually fight falling into familiar ways of thinking and acting, but slowly, my grip is getting looser. For me, releasing control is looking something like this:
I’m giving up “good” things.
For the past six years, ministry to moms has been my passion. I released a book for moms last year. My co-author and I had spent blood, sweat, tears, time and finances to write that book and build an online mom community. This past summer, I began to sense God was going to do something new with my ministry. I resisted. For months. I had worked too stinkin’ hard to just let it go. This fall, I had no choice. I couldn’t keep up with it all. Exhaustion had brought me to my knees.
That was a turning point. A short time later, I let go. God immediately opened my eyes and my heart to a new approach and focus: encouraging and comforting weary souls like me — those worn down by chronic pain, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Only God can use broken people to encourage broken people.
I’m obeying — even when it doesn’t make sense.
In the world of writing and ministry, I’ve always been told that you need to build a “platform.” People have to know who you are if you want anyone to hear your message. True enough. But continually bowing to the god of social media and chasing every new trend and marketing strategy was stripping me of all my joy. It wasn’t good for my soul, quite honestly. I was feeling more and more distant from God. I began to resent ministry and people.
I remember praying, God, I’m so tired. I can’t do ministry this way anymore. If this is what is required and how it has to be done, I’m out.
These days, I spend very little time on social media. I’m setting limits on my time on Facebook. I no longer obsess with keeping up with the ever-changing trends and Facebook algorithms to reach more people. This makes no sense not only from the world’s perspective, but even from the Christian ministry world’s perspective, who often puts the emphasis on the very same things.
Maybe at some point I’ll be able to handle being more active online. But right now, God is calling me to some very specific things. Spending every waking moment on social media and marketing isn’t one of them. Hallelujah.
The best bonus? It’s allowed me to hear His voice more clearly and calm the anxious ones in my head.
I’m praying instead of plotting.
I don’t have to “fix” everything and everyone. As if I could. I’m learning that through what God’s teaching me through my ministry. He’s also teaching me this lesson through my oldest — my daughter — graduating, becoming independent and forging her own path. When I see her going off course, I can’t send her to her room. I can’t ground her. Yep, no control. I can speak Truth into her life and I can pray.
A friend recently sent me this message: I pray that you are encouraged and have the confidence to trust Him with your baby…I wrote “baby” in reference to your ministry but it fits both babies…your daughter and your ministry. He has created both of them and has both of them in His mighty hands.
His mighty hands. I’m finding it a far more secure place to be than my tightly clenched fists.
I’m free. And it is sweet.