My first year in college, we had to choose a little slogan to post under our picture in the Joker (a campus magazine showcasing each student, their major, and important stats—like favorite food). Standing in line to register, as a naive newbie, I drew a blank. I had no cute saying just floating around in my mind, ready to pop out when my turn came.
Finally, a breathed a relieved sigh as I scrawled down the following deeply profound statement, which reflected my current state of mind.
Relax, you’re not in control.College freshman Me
That statement gave me hope, and did help me out of some stressful times, when I’d remember what I wrote.
I don’t know if I was a control freak. If I was, it wasn’t in the traditional sense. I didn’t feel the need to control others. But I did feel the stress acutely when things in my own world were not in order.
- I could not study with my closet doors open
- An uncertain future scared me—it kind of still does.
- I developed an eating disorder, which I was told was me trying to control my figure while still indulging in a bad diet. It was suggested that I had issues with control, but I don’t think I really understood that.
- I had to get good grades and would overstress about those and had a pretty big what if I fail syndrome.
Controlling my Kids
Do we ever really control our kids? We certainly make attempts, and for awhile maybe we do succeed. When we’re bigger. But every parent knows that we can have the victory without the heart, and that’s not very satisfying.
The satisfaction comes, not when they bow to our wishes, but when their heart is soft, and they are willing to listen and be taught. It’s what we’re after, but so often life is busy, and we settle for winning the small battles while the real war continues.
And sometimes, we just don’t understand how to work with the wild stallions. We know intuitively that they can be tamed, but we lack the knowledge or experience. We have a desire to tame them into useful horses, because we believe that when they are trained well, they will experience more freedom from danger than when they ran free.
We try. We fail. We try more, and would do anything to help them, but often our own failures get in the way. Bottom line, we attempt to show, train, and instruct, but at the end of the day, they have to be willing.
Lessons of Life. Why do they have to be so hard?
It hit me today. No matter what I would do for my kids, I cannot make decisions for them. I can see the road, try to point out the danger signs, and yell when I see a sharp curve coming up, but unless I take over the wheel, and toss them into the back seat, they’re gonna get where they drive.
As a parent, I am, and must be, in the passenger seat.
God as the copilot.
We’ve all heard the debate about God being the copilot vs Him taking the wheel. It’s true—He will drive if we ask Him, but, no matter what, He will never yank it out of our hands in order to drive.
I would like to do that sometimes as a mom. Just to get them around the next few bends. But I can’t.
I am not in control.
It’s their life.
What can I do?
I can pray and encourage (and you better believe that I am praying). I can listen. I can instruct and hope they’ll listen, but sometimes I just need to be quiet. Thankfully, I can place them every day, and sometimes every minute, before God in prayer, praying with Him to show Himself to them. Yeah—I know I already said prayer; it’s worth repeating.
Lessons from Driving
When my boys were first learning to drive, I sort of felt the same way about wishing I could be more in control. It was much more settling for me to just drive. And sometimes quite terrifying for me when they plopped themselves behind the wheel. We had a couple of crashes, even though they’d been through driver’s training and practice. I think we all learned a few things.
Crashes come in life too.
Some are fatal, and some turn out ok. Some crashes are fender benders, and others total the whole car.
We had a crash. A serious one.
I don’t know yet how it’s all going to turn out. There have been injuries. Some won’t be seen until later, and like in an automobile crash, it’s the internal injuries that can cause the most damage. Some won’t be seen for a long time. With God’s help we will do our best to pick up the pieces and get through.
Here’s where my control issue comes in. I’d love to have a way to step in and just fix it. As I was praying this morning, it hit me so hard. All those years of wanting to fix things so I could know what to expect came back. I like to know the ending. I don’t enjoy the unknown that I have no control over. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is not my battle to fight. Some things are not on me. They’re not on God directly, because He lets us choose, but praise the Lord, He still leads if we let Him.
This knowledge did not bring me total peace. It brought me more tears. I mean, if it were up to me, I’d make a choice that comes from many years of life experiences and learning from my own mistakes. I’d really choose that if I could to let my kid be spared the pain. But I can’t.
If only they’d listen. Things we’ve taught, warned of, prayed about. Experience is the best teacher, and unfortunately, it’s the bad experiences that usually teach us the most. Some things can only be learned by looking back on mistakes we’ve made. Some things take years to play out. It’s life.
We will support. As a family. What affects one affects all. Control is out of my hands. But prayer is not. I pray for openness to the Holy Spirit. I pray for conviction, guidance, and responsibility. I pray that this journey will bring maturity, and that those hurt can survive. Most of all, I pray that my child will find Jesus and learn of His deep love and plan, and that he will be willing to surrender to that.
In the meantime, I pray that I can take the advice from my nineteen-year-old self:
Relax, you’re not in control.God
So profoundly expressed! It is hard, but keep holding on. Makes me think of a quote I came across-“Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything”.
Thank you, Sandy! I hope so.
SO beautifully expressed!!! I tend to remind myself that there is only so much that is within my purview, and the rest, I can do nothing about.. and it has helped me a lot.. Now I can only hope to pass on this to my kids without controlling them 🙂
It’s a delicate balance that I can’t say I’ve fully grasped yet.