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I suppose I could have written Control Girl about seven controlling women from our day. There would surely be no shortage of examples to choose from, right? If I had done so, I probably would have chosen seven women from various life stages, income brackets, and life paths. I would have included a career-focused woman, a stay-at-home mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandma. And several, I’m sure, would have been single girls.
But I wanted to write a Bible study, not just a book. I wanted my readers to hear from God, not just me. Here’s what I wrote in Control Girl’s introduction:
I’ve divided each chapter into lessons with a correlating Bible passage to read first. Please, oh please, don’t skip these Bible readings! I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the power that God’s Word can unleash when you hear from him directly.
Studying Bible women—rather than tagging Bible verses onto the experiences of women from today— offered two advantages. Even for singles.
First, we get to see how their stories turned out! We can flip forward in our Bibles and see how God settled each little thing that these women were fretting or fuming about. Second, we get to see God’s perspective on their stories. We can listen in on the very conversations that they had with God himself, and watch how God reacts. Each Bible woman’s story offers unique warnings, lessons, and insights as we turn to consider our own stories.
But what if our story doesn’t match up with these Control Girls of the Bible? In particular, what about the “Single Control Girl”? Are singles welcome?
Early on in the editing process of Control Girl, one of my editors asked me, “Shannon, who is this book for? Is it just for wives and moms?” I’m guessing she was noticing that six of my seven Control Girls of the Bible were wives and moms.
I assured her that I intended this book to be for any woman, and we worked diligently to widen our discussion questions and application points to include women of various ages and stages. Yet in selecting the seven woman I would study (which I wrote more about here), the Bible didn’t offer me many single “Control Girls” to choose from. I was happy to include Miriam, who isn’t identified by the Bible as a wife or mom. But the other six (Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel) were all wives and mothers.
So is Control Girl written for the single woman? For the woman in her sixties who has never been married? Or the woman in her thirties who is newly divorced? Or the woman in her forties who has been recently widowed and is facing the challenge of raising her children alone?
To the extent that this Bible study focuses on the Bible, my answer is yes. This book is written for each woman I’ve described.
The Bible’s Audience
The Bible doesn’t belong just in the children’s section of the bookstore. It doesn’t only belong on the “Leadership Books” shelf or in the “World History” section. Nor is it relegated to a certain gender-specific shelf full of flower-clad study guides. If we were to look back and peek at the book proposal for the Bible, the section on audience would read, “This book targets all people of all generations for all time.”
Why? Because the Bible isn’t a book focused on us; it’s a book that helps us understand God.
I wrote Control Girl as a Bible study because I wanted women who were gripping onto their tattered fragment of the universe–their faces filled with angst, frustration, terror, and woe–to tip their heads back and get a glimpse of the One who truly is in control! Does that include single women? I’m guessing it does.
As I studied these seven Control Girls of the Bible, even though I am a wife and mom, I couldn’t always make one to one direct application. Even though I struggle with control, my life wasn’t exactly like theirs. For instance,
- Unlike Sarah, I have not experienced infertility.
- Unlike Hagar, I have not experienced physical abuse.
- Unlike Rebekah, I have not been asked to move to a foreign country.
- Unlike Leah, I am not unloved by my husband.
Perhaps you have experienced one of these things. Perhaps you can relate to one of these women far better than I. Perhaps you can feel to the core of your being what she felt, thousands of years ago.
If you and I were sitting next to each other studying one of these passages together, what do you think I–one who has not lived through something similar–might experience? What if I watched you relate deeply, and grapple with the implications of this Bible story on your own story? What if I watched you wrestle with hard truths and emerge saying, “God, I trust you! I give you control,”?
I can tell you what I’d experience because I have experienced it many times. When a woman next to me has a fresh encounter with God in his word, then I encounter Him, too! When I watch her faith, courage, and joy grow before my very eyes, then mine does, too!
Romans 15:4 says,
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
It’s biblical for me to look into the life of another believer–either one whose path is just like mine, or one whose path is quite different–and find instruction, encouragement and hope. And it’s not biblical to complain that God’s word isn’t focused enough on my own experience. And please pardon me when I find a bit of humorous irony in a woman complaining that a book on control wasn’t tailored closely enough to her. Enough said.
Now, is it wrong for us to group up or link arms with women of similar ages and stages? No! It’s a delight, actually. I enjoyed my young moms’ Bible study as much as the next girl. And I think that any time we choose to study God’s word with other Christians, there is potential to gain deeper understanding.
Over the past year, I’ve studied many of the Scripture passages which I’ll be working through in the new Bible study I’m writing alongside my two friends, Kristi and Michelle. I love studying together because they see things that I miss! I have pages of printed Bible verses with the margins overflowing with little notes about our conversations. I don’t want to forget their insights and the illustrations they shared! And I am always particularly encouraged to study next to these two because they’re not exactly in my same stage of life. Kristi and her husband are empty-nesters, and Michelle’s kids are younger.
Friends, I’m convinced that when we study God’s word in a circle with others who have different experiences, passions, and sorrows than ours, it helps to widen our scope and deepen our grasp of truth.
Shortly after Control Girl went to print, there was a group in a faraway state that did the study and scheduled a video chat with me afterward. It was a diverse group, with women of all ages and stages. It was a delightful group. The women were so invested in each other and had such open hearts to the topic, but one woman in that group stood out. If I remember correctly, she was in her sixties and had never been married or had children. She shared that since she is single and lives alone, she doesn’t struggle as much with the temptation to control other people. But she found it such a blessing to be part of the weekly discussions with the others who were sharing their struggles as coworkers, moms of teens, wives, and moms of little ones. She felt it helped her understand them more, so that she could pray for them! What a beautiful, selfless perspective, don’t you think?
Control Girl focuses deeply on family relationships because both women in Bible times and women today are deeply relational. Our control tactics often have to do with people, because people (what they think of us and how they treat us and what we mean to them) matter most to us. This is true not only in the family, but in the church, the workplace, the community, and online. In all of these settings, our control-craving hearts give evidence of our need to surrender control to God.
I’m so thankful for all of the women who have opened their hearts to Control Girl and allowed its message to translate into their lives. Let me close by sharing this response from my single friend, Jenn Hand, of Coming Alive Ministries:
Control Girl was an incredible Bible study read for this single girl who is very non type A and did not think I struggled with control. The truth is we all do. Shannon’s transparent writing coupled with diving into powerful Biblical truths helped me see areas of surrender I needed in my own heart and life. It was very encouraging as a single girl to think through not only surrendering control for my NOW season but I found much wisdom and encouragement in these pages for if marriage and children is ever a next season for me. Regardless of my stage of life, the Biblical truths and application helped me seek surrender in my now and next.
May we all be women who readily welcome truth, and who link arms with others–both alike and not–as we discover the God of the universe in his word.
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