One winter, my son Austin and I sat on the patio warmed by the embers of a small fire. We laughed over his childhood memories that at the time felt far more chaotic. Back then, I wanted to be a perfect mother—as if there is such a thing.
I was like most parents who want their children to experience a happy childhood, at least one happier than theirs when they were growing up.
- I wanted laughter to echo through the halls, to kiss away every pain, to life free of all disappointment.
- I wanted Austin to develop a sense of self, an empathetic kindness toward others, a genuine love for Jesus, and an understanding of scriptural truth.
- I wanted to protect him from the twisting damage of bullying and abuse.
- And, of course, I wanted him to love his mother.
Is that asking too much?
But he didn’t have an idealistic childhood. I was an over-achieving, terribly distracted mother. His brother had more demands and disabilities than time, money, doctors, or I could fix. Toss in a few awful teachers and some rotten bullies who left shards of collateral damage. Austin cried in the shadows of divorcing parents, lost his sense of self, and questioned Christianity because from his view it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. In a corrupt world, it’s dreadfully difficult to trust that God is sovereign. And a fearful, determined, idealistic mother doesn’t help. As a mom with some control issues, it took me a while to learn that God doesn’t need my help accomplishing His will.
Control Is God’s Thing
Control is one of those deceptive characteristics. It appears so organized, responsible, disciplined, on target, and polished. However, control is most often self-focused and motivated by a longing for internal peace. And the harder we try to be in control, the more suffocating and angry we become. Ask any kid of a controlling parent . . . or you could just talk with my kids.
But along the way, the Lord revealed the wreckage in my soul. My best intentions had brought pain, not peace. I asked for forgiveness a lot (and still do), and I looked up a lot too, because that’s the only direction you can look when you’ve hit rock bottom.
- God shows us we are valuable but not essential.
- He shows us we are strong but not sovereign.
- He shows us that dedication and commitment follow a heart surrendered to His will.
The Lord slowly reveals that He must be our first love—not our children, partner, plans, or wishes. Some days it’s tough to love Jesus more than anything else, but any other way messes up our entire lives.
The Root of Relational Joy
So, how about you?
- Is Jesus your first love?
- Are the words, “I’m so sorry; please forgive me” in your vocabulary?
- Do your friends and family members keep their distance?
- What are you trying to fix?
- Do you show up at church looking like the Photoshop family and think about those “bad parents” in the hall more than about God’s work in your soul?
I wrapped my arms around Austin. His wide shoulders embraced me. Our lives are not ideal. Sometimes we are messy and loud. But now my hands cling to Jesus, not some idealistic list I had years ago.
Let Me Hear from You
What role does control play in your life and emotions? What gives you a relational joy with God?
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