In this “Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series”, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.
“I’m still a Control Girl,” Amy sighed. “That’s what I’m realizing.”
I could relate. I’ve even written a book on the subject, but the struggle of control is far from over in my heart.
Amy and I became friends years ago, after I spoke at her church on “Control Girl”. She told me that this was an epiphany moment for her, and she had committed then and there to not evolve into a demanding, harsh, manipulative older woman.
God reinforced this commitment Amy made, shortly after at a women’s retreat when she experienced a sudden onset of (what she later discovered was) hashimoto’s disease. Everyone else was out enjoying themselves, but Amy was alone in a room that had no phone or internet; only her Bible. Amy realized that God was forcing the issue, and putting her in a position to hear Him. As she spent four hours on her knees, alone in horrendous pain, God was inviting Amy to surrender.
In the months that followed, Amy’s disease forced her to adopt a regimented lifestyle, giving up cravings, and living within extreme limits. It was huge time of “small arrow surrender” for Amy. But surprisingly, Amy looks back on this as a good and peaceful time for her family–likely because she had no leftover energy to focus on the people or situations she would like to control.
Yet now–years later, as we sat at the coffee shop together, Amy confessed that she had been backsliding into her old ways. “I’m not in the Word enough,” she confessed. “I need to restart.”
I asked Amy if I could give you this window into her life, because I think the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl is a long one. Many of us will need “restarts” along the way. We’ll need to reevaluate our progress and, turn once again, to God’s Word and Spirit for guidance and help.
As you listen to Amy’s struggle, I invite you to give yourself a check up. How are you doing on the ongoing process of surrendering control to God?
Amy’s daughter, Lexi, is seven and full of fire. Lexi really began spreading her wings this year, in first grade. She wants her independence, yet Amy still wants control. And where is this control-battle taking place? At the breakfast bar.
Here’s the rule. By 7:10 a.m. if Lexi is dressed and sitting at the bar, ready for breakfast, she can watch something on her ipad, while she eats. But Amy often finds herself saying, “It’s 7:02… It’s 7:05…”
Then, while Amy sits beside her at the breakfast bar, she’s saying every 30 seconds, “Lex, can you eat?” “Lexi, honey, please eat.” “Babe, you only have 3 minutes…”
All the while, Amy is projecting. If Lexi doesn’t eat, she’ll be hungry. Then, she’s more likely to be disruptive. Amy’s pretty sure the teacher already has a problem with Lexi. Amy imagines it’s because Lexi is naughty. Because she’s hungry. Because she didn’t eat.
Amy’s the sort of person who wakes up in a great mood, and steps into the day with a glass-half-full attitude. She’s confident at work. Rather than worrying about what might happen, she tries to avoid problems by working hard and creating great solutions.
But Lexi is just the opposite. Lexi worries and complains and wears the “what ifs” of life like a hundred balls with chains.
“What if someone steals my Build-a-Bear?”
“What if we get in a car accident?”
“What if I do bad on my math test?”
“What if my friends won’t play with me today?”
“What if a spider crawls into my bed?”
It’s constant and irritating and draining. Amy tries vigilantly to give her little girl tools to function, but she has nagging concerns. What if Lexi lets anxiety overtake her–the way other family members have? What if she enters adulthood emotionally crippled? Amy desperately wants to change the way Lexi thinks, but she can’t. It’s out of her control.
The other thing that Amy wants is for them to laugh together! Lexi is her only child. A daughter! She wants them to have a great time–to be silly, and have fun! But Lexi is so busy being anxious, it’s not possible.
“I realize that I just want her to be like me,” Amy says. “I want her to be happy!” But again, this is not something Amy control. And rather than having compassion for Lexi, she finds herself getting angry and frustrated–which causes her great shame.
“I cannot even tell you how tense I am, thinking about tomorrow morning,” Amy confessed.
Another breakfast. Another morning of Lexi worrying, but not taking steps (like eating breakfast!) to avoid concerns. Another morning of being a mom who’d like control, parenting a daughter who’s anxious about the things that are out of her control.
The contrast is interesting, isn’t it? Amy struggles with being angry and assertive and over-managing, because she craves control. Lexi struggles with being anxious and fretful and riddled with worry because she craves control. So they both want control; they just respond differently.
Here’s the conclusion that Amy and I came to. God has placed this exact daughter with these exact struggles in Amy’s life to help Amy with her ongoing struggles with control.
That’s what God does! He gives us people and situations that we can’t control, to cause us to lift our eyes to the One who already is in control.
Lexi’s struggles with anxiety will be ongoing. Amy knows this. She also knows that giving in to her craving for control will only make the situation worse.
There at the coffee shop, I was so blessed to sit quietly and listen to Amy counsel her own heart. She said,
I see it now! I’ve been trying to figure it all out on my own… how to be a better mom; to not be angry and have more patience. But I’ve been ignoring my deeper struggle with control.
I need to surrender to His plan.
To surrender the need to figure everything out.
To surrender the lie that I need to make this all turn out right; that it’s all up to me; that without my effort, it will all fail.
This sort of thinking is choking the life out of my family. It steals my joy. I need to rise above the sludge and get my focus where it needs to be. I need to surrender control to God.
What day-to-day struggles are you faced with? Could God be allowing something you can’t control, because he wants you–like Amy–to lift your eyes above the sludge and surrender control back to Him?
The path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl is not quick or easy. It’s a long series of steps that are uphill and involve straining against our own selfishness and independence. But this path of surrender leads to peace, hope, and joy–knowing that God is in control, so we don’t have to be.
Are You a Control Girl?
Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.
Control Girl to Jesus Girl
Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series? Come learn from other women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Learn from their mistakes and take hope for the future.