This last Surrender Step to Freedom has to do with your posture. From which position do you look at that other Control Girl’s issues? Are you standing over her in judgment, cowering under her in fear, or kneeling beside her in prayer?

Now, I know, I know.There’s no way that you can coerce another Control Girl into a kneeling position. If you tried to do so, you wouldn’t be kneeling any longer. So I’m not suggesting that you can or should get the other Control Girl in your life to humble herself and join you in prayer. But I am suggesting that—in your mind’s eye and with your heart attitude—you kneel beside her on level ground.

The Tax Collector and Pharisee

Remember the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, who went to the temple to pray? Jesus positions the two, as he tells the story, with lots of distance between them. “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed, ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men… or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11, italics added)

The Pharisee distanced himself out of superiority. There was no way he was every going to go kneel beside the tax collector. They were in different categories. Different classes. They were divided in every way. So when the Pharisee turns to God in prayer, his contempt and superiority lace every word as he offers superficial thanksgiving. He thanks God that he’s not like other people—especially that other tax collector.

The Pharisee sees distance between himself and the tax collector, but Jesus does not. To Jesus the two men were the same. They were both sinners, yet only one of them realized it: the tax collector. He’s the one with the correct posture before God. Jesus described him as not even lifting his eyes to heaven, as he prayed in crumpled repentance before God, while the Pharisee looked on with eye-rolling arrogance—completely missing the point. (Luke 18:13)

I wonder which one best characterizes me—the Pharisee or the tax collector—as I pray about the other Control Girl in my life. Which posture do I choose as I approach God? Do I come in crumpled humility, grieving over my own sin? Or do I come in eye-rolling arrogance, completely missing the point?

As I approach God with my frustration over the other Control Girl in my life, what is my posture? Do I come in crumpled humility, grieving over my own sin? Or do I come in eye-rolling arrogance, completely missing the point? Click To Tweet

Oh how easy it is for us to miss the point, when we pray for another sinful person. How quickly we forget that we also are a sinful person. I love the quote that my friend, Cindy Bultema, put on her facebook wall recently:

“Let’s be careful not to judge others because the sin differently than we do.”

–Cindy Bultema

Hurt and Offended

Years ago, I was frustrated with a woman named “Leslie”, who was part of a committee I helped lead. Leslie called one day to share her white hot frustration because the other leader and I had decided to split the group for just a few meetings. (Please note: For anonymity, I’m creating a fictitious but somewhat parallel scenario, here). This arrangement was temporary, based on some circumstantial details, and we had expected the change to be a “non event”. Leslie, however, was outraged. She had called to tell me how hurt and offended she was that we had made this decision without even consulting everyone.

At first I was taken aback. I tried to remind Leslie that this was a temporary change. Then I tried to explain the details which led to this decision. But Leslie found the information unsatisfactory, and she became even more upset—saying that I was only being defensive and not really listening to her when she told me she was hurt and offended.

Well, now was hurt and offended! Didn’t Leslie know me better than to assume I had been malicious and uncaring? There were layers (believe it or not) that went into this small, temporary change which I couldn’t talk about. Couldn’t Leslie just give me/us the benefit of the doubt?

Apparently she could not. I felt micromanaged, judged, and criticized. In my opinion, Leslie was acting like the ultimate Control Girl!

I tried to turn the tables and express my own hurt and frustration, but Leslie became even more outraged. She said, “I was the one reaching out to you because I’m hurt and offended! Yet you’re making this my problem?!”

When I finally got off the phone call, my emotions were all tied in knots. We had solved nothing, and I had no idea how to proceed.

A New Kind of Prayer List

In emotionally charged situations like this, it’s very easy for me to focus on the other Control Girl and all of her issues. It’s easy to be blind to my own tendency to clamp down or dig my heels in. Often the other person is provoking me because she wants what I do: control. But it’s very difficult for me to sort this out on my own.

So I’ve learned to enlist the help of someone neutral who can help me see my own heart with clarity. This time, I called my friend Amy (who was completely removed from the situation) for help. I told Amy how unhinged I was by Leslie’s controlling heart and attitude. I asked her to give me input on how to respond.

I’ll never forget Amy’s assignment. She said, “Shannon I’d like you to make a list of all the ways that you and Leslie are alike. List them out, one by one. Because I actually think you may have more similarities–both in your strengths and weaknesses–than you realize.” Amy continued, “Then, I’d like you pray through your list and ask God to work in you both.”

The result was remarkable. As I started making my list, I realized that Amy was right. Leslie and I were much more alike than I realized. We are both passionate leaders. We both ache with compassion and concern for other people. We also have a strong sense of justice and are quick to judge. And when something goes wrong, we both (without even realizing it) want to lunge for control.

After making my list, I got down on my knees and pictured Leslie there beside me. I imagined us side by side on our knees at the foot of the cross, with all our shared weaknesses. Then I didn’t pray for her, I prayed for us. I sobbed with fresh grief over my sense of superiority and surrendered my burden of trying to control Leslie. And oh, what freedom this brought, when I laid down my burden of control.

Friend, what that other Control Girl in your life needs, and what you need are the same. What we all need most is to surrender control to God.

When conflicts arise, it’s so easy to relapse and begin trying to control the situations and people that trouble me. Instead, God wants me to remember that He’s already in control, so I don’t have to be.

Your Assignment

Is there another Control Girl who gets under your skin? Make a list of shared strengths, but especially shared weaknesses. Are you both quick tempered? Are you both manipulative? Are you both selfish? Do you both lack humility?

Take your list down on your knees and picture that other Control Girl beside you, there are the foot of the cross. Don’t pray for her; pray for you both. Pray earnestly that God will transform you both.

Remember how the Pharisee and the tax collector prayed at a distance from each other?

Don’t pray like the Pharisee—completely missing the point, and forgetting your own sin. Don’t come to God with arrogant pride, looking down on someone else. Instead, get on your knees and humble yourself. In your mind’s eye and with your heart attitude—kneel beside the other Control Girl in your life on level ground. Ask God to do a work in you both.


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