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.


Welcome to my friend, author and speaker Jen Ferguson, who today shares her “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” story. Jen is from Texas, but is a regular workshop leader for our Speak Up! Conference in Grand Rapids–which is how we met. By the way, Jen also gave a beautiful endorsement of Control Girl (you can read it here.) She’s been an huge blessing and encouragement to me.

Here’s Jen:

“Has porn been a struggle lately?” I asked my husband during a rare, home-by-ourselves dinner. 

“No,” he said. “I’ve really been struggling with my eating, though. This has been harder than I thought it would be.”

And then, after a few more moments, we moved on to the dishes.

This may not seem like remarkable conversation. But it is simply because for a decade Craig’s porn addiction unleashed the full extent of my Control Girl-ness. In the past, the picture of “checking in” with Craig looked like this:

The computer had to face a certain way in the study, so that if the door was closed (though this was against the rules), I could see whatever was on the screen before Craig had time to close the window. There was to be no erasing of the history and I would monitor his emails religiously. Any hint of suspicion would often turn into accusations, or at least, a litany of questions that would not stop until I was assured there had been no violation (however, I was never 100% satisfied because I couldn’t really be assured). If he didn’t come to bed with me at night, I would lay awake, wondering if I needed to sneak downstairs to just do a little “check.” As the age of Napster faded, I could relax a little there, but as technology advances made their way into our home, I had a whole new crop of devices and services to check. iPads, iPhones, Netflix, Hulu. The list was endless.

And I was exhausted.

Controlling is exhausting. The moral of the story is that seeking to control will land us straight on the path to crazy. One Mother’s Day, I found myself on the floor of my dark bedroom closet, railing at God, shaking my fist, and wondering why He was making my life so darn difficult. When I was finally silent, He asked me a very simple question:

“Are you ready to do this My way?”

And this was the beginning of my transition from Control Girl to Jesus girl.

Forgetting Surrender

Years later, I reflected back on that closet floor moment:

As much as I prayed that God would heal him from his addiction, and as much as I knew that he could be set free, I simply had not let God handle this one on His own. In my mind, there were too many things at stake—my marriage, my husband’s life, my children, my self-respect, his self-respect. Somehow, I had fooled myself into believing that becoming the porn police was going to ensure successful recovery. Somehow, I had fallen into the trap of believing that if I said and did the right things, healing would take place. I couldn’t help by try to orchestrate the whole process, because I felt if I didn’t get control over this situation, everything as I knew it would fall apart. Crumble. Cease to exist.

I focused all my energy on what he was doing and why he was doing it. In the process, I simply forgot two very important things:

Trust God.
Respect my husband.

In my attempt control, I forgot to surrender.  I forgot to let God work. I forgot to let God heal. I forgot that Craig belonged to Him and not just to me. In the end, I became blinded by the enormity of the problem instead of boasting of the immensity of God’s power. Chains have a way of making you forget the power of the One you serve. (excerpt from Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography)

Exhausted Again

One might surmise that after learning such a big lesson, coupled with God’s healing power in Craig’s life over many years, I myself would have been completely set free from the chains of control.

But no.

Though I learned how to trust God with my husband’s porn addiction, unfortunately, this did not translate into all the others areas of my life, for there are many things I still tend to rule with an iron fist.

But God is faithful. Every time He shows me yet another area where I am acting like an impetuous Control Girl, He reminds me of this verse:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

I am, we are, works in progress. The past few weeks have been a painful work in progress. It seems like the whole onion analogy works here. There are layers and layers of my controlling nature and as God peels them away, sometimes I cry.

A large part of why I control is because I’m afraid. My biggest fear is that I will fail my husband and my kids.

So much of my planning, organizing, and caretaking stems from the anxiety that if I don’t do X, Y, and Z—or if they don’t—things will fall apart. I keep my expectations high for a well-run, well-organized life, doing my best to keep everyone moving along as they should, investing all that I can emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I believe that this continually striving will give me protection from all that failure that looms large out there.

Hey, guess what? I’m exhausted. Again.

Somehow, I fooled myself. I cloaked my controlling nature and hid it under the guise of simple self-discipline, self-control. That sounds so holy, right? How can self-discipline, self-control, be wrong?

Imitation Self-Control

The first clue is this—the lack of joy. Anything done out of fear tends to be rather joyless. And if I’m “wifing” and parenting without joy, what am I really giving my family?

Second Timothy 1:7 says this:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

The self-control driven by fear is not this same self-control given by God.

My self-control is really quite self-serving—to try to manipulate life so that I decrease as much suffering and disruption as possible. Running things my way feels safe and brings me much comfort. I want my order, my plan, and for everyone else to fall in line because it’s safe.

“Unfortunately, the desire for self-control may have many motivations. It may stem from man’s self-centered or worldly objectives rather than from inner controls brought about by a deep relationship with God and biblical beliefs, motives, values, methods and means, and objectives.” (see quote here)

Um, yeah.

How prideful (i.e. self-centered and worldly) is it for me to create the “safe” path, as if something I design could be better than what God has planned. How dare I doubt God’s power of redemption?

If I continually inflate my agenda over my loved ones’ lives (and my own), how much of God am I squeezing out?

And if Jesus is, by definition, LIFE, and He has come so we might have LIFE abundant, on what will we miss out because of my selfish “self-control?”

Jesus Girl Self-Control

I believe that planning, organizing and having a penchant for self-disciple are gifts God has given me. But when I use them to do His job, or when I use them for self-protection because I am afraid, I am not embodying the spiritual gift of self-control. I am simply living out a worldly imitation—and investing more faith in myself than in God.

How do you know if filling yourself with imitation self-control instead of the real thing? Here’s a little checklist (because we self-disciplined love lists, right?) to help you see if you need to trade in a counterfeit.

I’m confident that we can develop a practice of using God’s gift of self-control to discern when we are using controlling measures to cover up our feelings of being out of control.
Remember. He is faithful to finish what He has started.


Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. She’s also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

 


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 from the future they are embarking on!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This