I was twenty years old, single, and getting ready for a date. (If that sentence makes no sense to you, it’s because this story took place about three decades ago—back when people who weren’t dating went on dates. Weird, I know.) Our house didn’t have air conditioning, and it was a hot, sticky, summer day. I was trying to do my hair in the mirror, but it was flat and frizzy (which still—decades later—is pretty awful looking). And I was starting to panic.
This date was really important to me. I had to look good. The guy picking me up seemed like he might just be the one to make all my dreams come true. I was convinced that my happy ending hung on whether or not I could get my hair looking better than it did. Which is why—when my sister came into the bathroom and grabbed the hair clip on the counter, I went nuclear.
I started yelling, grabbing, and scratching–trying to pry that clip from her startled, gripping fingers. Then I resorted to pinching and pulling her hair. I’m sure I looked like one of Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters, but I had no choice. That clip was my last resort. I had to have it. Without it, my hair could quite possibly ruin this date. And my life.
Really the only thing keeping my happy ending from coming unhinged was that hair clip.
My Happy Ending
So how did it all turn out, you wonder? Well, I can’t remember if I wore the hair clip and I don’t recall anything about that date. I do know that I didn’t marry the guy. Or the next one, I dated. Or the one after that. So really, the hair clip didn’t have as much to do with my happy ending as I thought. Which is sort of a pattern for me.
So many of the things I’m trying to control in the moment are linked to some happy ending in my head. I’ve worked out all the details for how it’s supposed to turn out in the end. And in the moment, I’m projecting. If I don’t get control of some minuscule detail, I’m convinced everything is going to unravel. So I jump in and get to work. I even scratch and pull hair if need be. I try to control it all and keep myself on the path which leads straight to my happy ending.
Can you relate?
If you struggle with perfectionism, usually the small things you’re trying to control are tied to some bigger goal. Like safety, health, success, or popularity. You clamp down on the small things like what you eat, study habits, or how frequently you wash your hands, but really it’s the happy ending in your head driving you forward.
There’s only one problem, really, to pulling off your own happy ending. Here it is: You’re not God.
If you were God, you could control over all the details. You could run interference on the girl who’s trying to cut in and steal your boyfriend. You could push some other candidate for the award or scholarship out of the way. You could make your boss choose you for promotion after promotion, all the way to the top. You could make your hair thicken, your lips plump up, and your waist shrink. You could cause ten thousand followers to suddenly turn their attention your way in Instagram. You could make the man of your dreams to fall in love with you. And you could make your body cooperate and produce little humans right on schedule.
Since you aren’t God, the temptation is to do the next best thing: play God. You try to manage all of the contingencies and all of the details which might threaten your happy ending. But you have to be thorough. You can’t let even one thing fall from your grasp—not even the tiniest baby hair clip.
You have to admit, though, that there’s a downside to playing God. It’s exhausting. It requires constant Control Girl maneuvering. And even when you’re vigilant for decades, you can’t be sure you’ll get your happy ending. Because it’s really not up to you. It’s up to the real God—who invites you to find joy in surrendering to Him.You have to admit. There's a downside to playing God. It's exhausting. It requires constant maneuvering. And even when you're vigilant for decades, you can't be sure you'll get your happy ending. Because it's really not up to you. It's up to the… Click To Tweet
When I was writing Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible the Bible woman I found most disappointing was Rachel. I was so sure I would love her story, since she was beautiful and had a guy who was obviously in love with her. But Rachel’s story was actually pretty disappointing. She spent her whole life trying to create her happy ending of a big family. She would alternate between pacing in front of an empty crib, then leveraging what she could to fill it.
When Rachel finally did have a baby she named him “Joseph” which means “may he add”. One baby wasn’t enough for her. Remember God? Her happy ending needed to be filled with lots of babies. Rachel did end up having another baby, but her life was cut short in childbirth. What a sad ending—not at all, a happy one. Yet here’s the thing. I believe Rachel could have had a whole life of happiness.
She got to be the mom of Joseph, for crying out loud. And she was one of the mothers of Israel—God’s people. From our perspective, thousands of years later, Rachel played a pretty important role. No, things didn’t go as she hoped or dreamed, but they went exactly according to God’s plan. And she got to be part of it!
What Are You Pacing in Front Of?
Think about your own story. Maybe you’re not pacing in front of an empty crib, but I’ll bet you’re pacing in front of some happy ending dream. Is it a job? A relationship? An award? A lifestyle? What is the one thing that you don’t think you could be happy without?
Now think about what might represent a “Joseph” in your story. Has God given you a good gift that you have brushed off in pursuit of more? What has God already filled your arms or your life with? And could it be that you’re missing out some present joy because of some happy ending ideal?
Here’s the truth. God is in control, not you. And when you try to play his role, you’ll only become frustrated, hurt, and angry. But when you let God be God, you’re free to enjoy the life and the role He’s given you!
I’m not saying you should let go of all of your dreams. Don’t quit school or stop applying for internships. Don’t stop filling your journal with dreams about your future husband. Don’t quit your training or diet or studying plans. But do surrender the outcomes to God.
Surrender Best Practices:
Here’s what I’ve found helpful. Whenever I find myself clamping down on something as ridiculous as a hair clip, I ask myself, “Okay, Shannon. What are you trying to control here? What is the happy ending you’re clamping down on?” If I can surrender that thing on the last page, it helps me to flip back to this part of the story and surrender whatever I’m facing today.
Friend, what will you surrender today? Here’s what I know: A surrendered girl is filled with far more joy than a Control Girl.
Get the whole series HERE.
Do you know a girl, ages 15-25 who might be a Young Control Girl? Will you send THIS INVITE her way?
Check out my Bible study, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.