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.
Jennifer has always tried to be perfect. She obeyed her parents and teachers. She got straight A’s. She was compliant and followed the rules.
Jennifer graduated from college with an accounting degree, but she never wanted to be anything but a wife and mom. When she and Rob got married, she tried to be a perfect wife. Oh, how she tried to be perfect. As she and Rob added children to their home, Jennifer worked even harder to maintain the equilibrium of perfection in their home.
But one day, after a particularly stressful downturn at work, Rob came home with an empty look in his eye. He was distant. Distracted. Shortly after this, he got a new job which required more travel. The time away from home created even more distance in the marriage. Rob was emotionally vacant. Jennifer felt him withdrawing and it terrified her.
“What can I do?” she begged Rob. “Why are you pulling away?”
But he always responded the same. “You’re a great wife, Jennifer. Everything’s fine.”
It didn’t feel fine.
Jennifer scrambled to get godly advice from Christian books and Bible studies. She would underline and highlight and put every marriage tip or trick she could find into practice. She wrote love notes and initiated intimacy. She made lists of the things she adored about Rob. She was respectful and kind. She went to counseling. And she prayed! Oh, how she prayed. She fasted. She begged God to save her marriage.
But all of Jennifer’s perfectionistic efforts seemed only to push Rob, inch by inch, further out the door.
One morning, Rob said, “I still love you, but I’m confused and I need to sort this out. I’ve rented an apartment. I’m moving out.”
The thing Jennifer dreaded most was coming true. Her marriage was failing. She was failing. The shame of it enveloped her. Her first inclination was get a strangle hold on Rob. She was desperate to find out how to fix the problem. She would do anything!
But wasn’t this what she had been doing all these years? Clearly, it wasn’t working.
Wrestling with God
Over the coming weeks and months, Jennifer had to wrestle with the fact that her marriage might end. But how could this be? She had been the perfect wife! She had done everything right! She had studied the “if… then” verses in the Bible, and had stood on God’s promises!
At her core Jennifer had to contend with one thing: God was letting her down. He wasn’t meeting her expectations. Could she trust a God like this? How could God be both sovereign and good if He was allowing her to lose her marriage?
Facing and admitting these doubts about God proved pivotal for Jennifer. God met her there, in the struggle of giving up control. Jennifer had to lay the future on the altar, knowing that even if she did everything right, she might still lose her marriage.
God used a book, Prisoner in the Third Cell, to give Jennifer some new direction. The book highlights the way that Jesus didn’t meet John the Baptist’s expectations either. But Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt. 11:6) For Jennifer this translated: Blessed is the one who doesn’t call it quits when God doesn’t save your marriage, even after you do everything right.
What to do?
The crazy thing about Jennifer’s failing marriage was that there were no visible problems. Rob loved her. He was a Christian man, who read his Bible and prayed. He said she was a great wife and mom. He wasn’t having an affair. He wasn’t addicted to pornography. It baffled her!
So what was she to do? God gave Jennifer this verse: “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.” (Exodus 14:13 NIV) God wanted her to not do anything about her marriage. To stop trying to control the outcome. To stop striving and stressing and obsessing, and wait on Him.
But there was one thing she could do about herself. Jennifer realized that she had a habit of being reckless with her mind. Fear would rise up with no warning. A song playing at the grocery store. A sight or smell which triggered memories. Anything at all could send her into a tailspin of hopelessness and renewed desperation to try and fix everything.
So Jennifer began to pray that God would arrest her in her thoughts. When she felt worry begin to flood her soul, she would pray, “Holy Spirit rise up within me! Stop me from caving in to fear. Give me peace!” She had a rolodex of Scripture verses, ready to refute the lies of the enemy at any given moment.
Slowly, Jennifer learned to take her thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5). She was transformed in the way she thought. Even though Rob had hurt her deeply, she was learning to love as God loves–with nothing in return. Even though she had no indication that things with Rob would ever change, she was learning to extend grace the way God does–with no expiration.
Slowly, thought by thought, Jennifer was being transformed from a clamping, clinging, gripping Control Girl into a Jesus Girl. Surrendering control had set her free.
One day, to Jennifer’s great delight, Rob said, “I’d like to come home.”
Jennifer asked him what had changed. “I watched you,” he said. Over the months and months of separation, Rob had watched Jennifer exchange desperation and obsession for security and peace. Always before, Jennifer had gripped perfectionism like a shield against rejection. But now, Rob had watched his wife cast off perfectionism and cloak herself instead with faith.
Nothing is more lovely than a woman adorned with a deep, abiding faith in her God.
Jennifer lost the one thing she had gripped most tightly to: her marriage. But God had used this time of separation to press her to lay down her fear, give control to God, and become the beautiful, strong, fearless wife that God wanted her to be.
Here are her words today: “I strived to be the perfect wife, but all my husband wants and needs is me. With all my flawed frailties, he wants (just like me) to be needed in a safe place where he is not expected to be perfect but welcomed as enough. And it’s from that level place that we can walk forward growing together to be more like Jesus.”
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 from the future they are embarking on!