The Root of Relational Joy

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.

Mom and Son
(Image from Pixabay)

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.

Inner Peace

(Image from Pixabay)

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, spouse, 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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15 thoughts on “The Root of Relational Joy

    • Wayne,
      Great to hear from you again. Yes, it sums up so much of life….for some of us. I know I am loud-a Swindoll trait some would maybe say-and messy in many ways. It’s good to know we are not alone in our messes, isn’t it. Yes, our God is so gracious to see beyond what is less important to what is most important….the formation of our characters. Thanks for your wonderful reminder of God’s grace; may He shower you with that continually. Colleen

  1. I am sure my daughter, Sierra (who is 10) could relate very well with your son, Austin. She quite often struggles with being the big sister of two brothers on the autism spectrum – and how they mess up her things, her plans sometimes, and the general “normalcy” of being a family. But through them, I hope she is learning the value of perseverance and how God loves ALL of us. He loves us not because of what we can do or how well we do it. He loves us just because we are His. She also deals with having a mom who is exhausted a lot (mentally and physically), and quite often a mess all by herself! I hope she sees that same perseverance in me. As I said to a friend the other night, though, if I do anything well it’s only because God is working through me. He is the one in control and that is so comforting when things (and people) are a mess!

    • Rohna,
      Oh my…two on the spectrum…I bet you are very tired and it is very tough! You last few words are the most important… “God is working through me”! When I began to let go and allow all the broken pieces to be as they were, take responsibility for what was mine to own, then God’s light began to shine so much more. In fact, my son currently is working with another young man with autism far more severe than his brother’s diagnosis; and volunteered in many of our special needs church programs. It wasn’t my doing but God’s working in his own life. We have our challenges as siblings most often do have life long difficulties; but it’s how we respond to those unique difficulties with God’s strength that changes everything. There is a book titled “The Resilient Family”…I highly recommend it! There are many positive outcomes, character developments that can happen as a result of our limitations; God so faithfully works through us when we are weak or unable. He is so good and so faithful! Thanks so much for your honesty here! The fact that you are reflective, you are seeking the Lord’s guidance and wisdom means He will indeed show you the way. Wonderful promise. Have a great day! Colleen

  2. Thanks for posting Colleen. What a great encouragement not just for special need parents but typical as well. We do not always have to have it together or perfect. Great reminder to keep first things first and that is God. GOD IS THE ONE IN CONTROL not us. We have to remember God is sovereign.
    I know for me and having my Matthew who is special needs it is a constance teaching of learning to surrender and realizing I have no control. God shows me exactly who He says he is biblically. He is my Father, My Lord, the one who is controlling and knows all things in my life not me. What he thinks and feels towards me trumps anything this world can dish out at me and my child. I remember the days when I thought if I was just perfect enough ? or If Matthew had the right clothes on or just trying to seem as typical as possible that somehow He would snap out of it and it all would be ok. That was my control and it made us all miserable. It was a learning curve and still learning. Matthew has made me as real as I can possibly be and then some. Honest to a fault at times. I am so stripped down that this is who and what we are. But its ok. Even in the worst times its is ok. I may kick and scream but I know full well God has us and that its His plan and its just ok. In the end it is what it is and that is enough for me. God is enough for me and everything else just falls into place and His will. A relational joy that God give me is finally getting closer in realizing who actually is in control and it so not me. That gives me joy.

    • Missy,
      WOW!!! What an incredible note! It took me years to learn all that you have learned…and still have so far to go. So many things you said resonated with what the Lord had shown me…who He really is (as one author says “He is the God of the Bible, not the God of our Bible Stories”…isn’t that GREAT!), what truth really means, what this life is really about, what we can count on and not count on, how our society sends messages that lead to emptiness but God’s leads to fulfillment…and more. It’s learning who we are in Christ that allows us to be so authentic and free; isn’t that wonderful! While there are tough season’s and we wonder how we will press on at times, God provides His faithfulness in ways we never forget. It’s so great to interact with you here as well as on our Face book page. Thanks for being open and for connecting. Colleen

      • Colleen the experience I have is from God and God alone. It’s taken 43 years to get here. With all that’s happened in my life before Matthew and 12 years with him . I truly believe this now but in the beginning with Matthew I fought God and hard. There were days I thought just kill us now please. Those are the days from learning from others to keep praying and keep reading . Even if I was not believing it . Plowing through as I call it. God gave me a survivor instinct from the beginning but most of all He gave me the never ending craving to love and be loved . He is the only one who fills this. I still have that longing/ emptiness but that won’t be filled till I see my Lord. Anyway I am in no way perfect or know it all . Just experience and learning from others and always learning from God. Part to I think is learning when it feels like it’s going to kill you to get on your knees and cry with God. Sometimes pleading , screaming but always praying. I have cries so hard by the time I’m done I am planted face down on the floor. That’s where he gives me strength and comfort . That’s where I learn He’s in control . Thank you so much for your posts and blogs. It helps to see what I actually believe and share.

  3. Colleen,
    Once again you have gone straight to the heart of a problem I had as a young mother the need for control.
    Mine had tragic consequences that the grace and mercy of God is only solace that I have living with my situation.
    Thank you so much for these wonderful notes of grace that you send to us every Tuesday, I come into work and the first break I get I race to your special needs blog.
    It blesses me every time.

    • Linette,
      How sweet you are to say such kind words…may you continue to be encouraged by the posts. I’m so sorry for the pain you have endured, but in it, there has to be Divine Providence…some greater purpose that you may or may not see in this lifetime. Your life matters, what happens in it matters, and there is a plan that God somehow pulls it all together and makes it sweet to the receiver. Thank you for connecting here; I hope you will again. Colleen

    • Ann,
      You are very welcome. It is a reminder to us all that walking with Jesus is a constant pursuit of humility, mercy, obedience, and faithfulness. One of the easiest ways to mend a relationship is to say “I’m sorry”, or “I was wrong”, or “I ask for your forgiveness”…God is so honoring of a broken and contrite spirit. We all walk in that one day at a time. Enjoy the rest of your day and thank you for connecting. Colleen

  4. My plans for my gifted daughter were thwarted by the birth of her brother who is intellectually disabled.
    Both are grown now and my daughter is a special ed teacher with a big heart for all who struggle to learn. She is the kind of teacher I wish my son had had.
    My daughter did not get all that I wanted for her, but her struggles with her brother were turned into gifts of patience, caring and understanding that no one but God can teach.
    It is never easy having a sibling who must get more attention, but God had a plan that could not be imagined.

    • LJ,
      What a note…can any of us imagine what the Lord will do with our lives? While the road is so very difficult at times, it is also a path of awakenings….awakening to our human flaws, our weaknesses, our wishes and self focused longings. Thus we have the choice of what will be done with the awareness. It sounds as if you chose to hand them all over to God; the ONLY one who could turn our lives into beauty. I’m thrilled for your children; for what your son has taught all of your and for what your daughter has chosen to do for a career. Who would have guessed on many of the long, dark, lonely days of struggle? He is so faithful, so full of grace and direction. Thank you for sharing how He has brought you along and how your family has been changed by the challenges you have endured. May the Lord continue to provide you with His strength, His peace, His fullness. Great to hear from you! Colleen