As a strong, independent woman, control is highly appealing to me. If I had it my way, I would be able to plan and execute a highly organized orchestra of occurrences in my life down to the minute, like a well-kept schedule (there's a reason I love my planner and spend an average of thirty minutes to one hour daily mulling over my schedule for the following day, planning driving time and workouts and meals and alone time; realizing just how crazy Type A this makes me sound...*face palm*). But I've learned that control is also highly elusive, seeming most appealing at the moments when my life feels the most chaotic. Scrambling for some sense of authority and self-sufficiency, I grab hold of whatever loose ends are within reach to compensate for the lack of control I have over what circumstances I find myself in. In my experience, that looks a lot like my health practices and relational worries: my daily rendezvous - or two - with the gym and Shaun T and meticulous attention to the food with which I fuel my body (although this is for reasons greater than control, as I generally like not feeling sick from the foods I consume. That's always nice), and my search for ways to level the playing field of mutual commitment and intentionality in relationships.
Surprisingly enough, the more control I attempt to gain over external circumstances and relationships, the more anxious I become.
God has been working with me to abandon control for years, and I suspect this is a continual theme in our relationship. In theory, "let go and let God" makes complete sense: It's been empirically proven time and again to work better than my flailing attempts to latch onto situations, people, circumstances I believe serve me. Because literally every single time I let go of my pride and realize my brokenness and need for God to lead me, God replaces the petty thing I'm holding onto with something greater than I had ever expected.
A mentor and friend once explained it this way:
Sometimes God asks us to give Him the rugged, torn-up, comforting teddy bear we've been holding onto for so long so He can replace it with a bigger, better, more comforting teddy bear He's been hiding behind His back, waiting to surprise us upon trusting him.
The problem? In practice, it's just so freakin' hard to trust that I'm not just jumping off a cliff into the terrifying abyss of loss of control, with nothing to catch me at the bottom or a parachute to slow my imminent fall. That, and I'm stubborn.
But when I take that jump, the parachute always releases - most often that very same day, or very soon thereafter - to catch me and give me the security I need to carry on. And it's not of my own accord or strength, but by the sheer grace of God. You'd think I'd have learned that this is how God works in my life by now. Then again, I often lapse in memory and default to a position of latching in defense and erroneous belief.
In my experience, letting go of control has happened in stages. It is oftentimes too much to surrender everything at once, and so little by little, we are asked to let go of one thing at a time until we are released from our ties to that person, struggle, or circumstance that is holding us back from growing. Over the period of four and a half long years, God continually prompted me to trust in Him and let go of a relationship I wanted to control that was ultimately bringing a lot of anxiety and pain into my life. The more relentless His pursuit to get me out and present me with reason after reason to leave it behind, the more I clung on, concocting a thousand reasons contrary to my heart's intuitions (which I now see as the Holy Sprit's prompting) as to why I couldn't let go, simply because it looked good on paper. Because of my stubbornness, I underwent a lot of unnecessary heartache. But, let me tell you, literally every single time I let go of some component of this relationship, my frantic panic was met with overwhelming peace (usually after the tears), and more often than not, a piece of the puzzle of God's will for my life.
God works in mysterious ways. But when we look back on His relentless pursuit of bringing about His will in our lives, it all starts to make sense. His great grace allows me to testify (pun intended):
(Shameless plug, and brief aside: NEEDTOBREATHE is AWESOME; I saw them in concert at Red Rocks this September - also an incredible venue, you need to go - and had one of the most amazing concert experiences. I almost cried. Which puts it up in rank with all three times I saw Mumford & Sons, which is saying something, considering I cry like a baby every time I see them; Awake My Soul live, can we just...? Anyway. Take a listen to NTB's stuff. Seriously. Do it. You'll thank me.)
More than the art of letting go, I have learned that relinquishing control not only frees my headspace to focus on more important things, like my work and serving those around me, but also allows the right next step to come to me, instead of trying to force something myself. When I allow God to have His way in my life by surrendering my own will, things fall into place, whether that's a relationship that truly and effortlessly serves me and my counterpart (imagine that!!!), or a job opportunity that simply presents itself to me. It makes me wonder, if I were totally surrendered to God at all times, how easily would God's will guide my life? How much more effective would I be in doing what I've been placed on this planet to do - create relationships and encourage others onward in their relationship with God - rather than trying to paddle upstream, against the current taking me to the places I need to be?
Surrender is terrifying; I'm totally with you on that front. But it is always, always completely worth it. How can you trust the process by letting go and letting God?