Up until recently I thought I was a relatively healthy person. I didn’t have too much baggage or too many issues to deal with.
Then I started counseling.
My counselor told me she thinks I have control issues. I told her I think her customer service skills are lacking.
I mean, seriously? Control issues? Me? I have absolutely no issues with being in control. So, I don’t see the problem. In fact, as long as everything is turning out the way I think it should, and everyone is acting the way I think they should, I have absolutely no issues at all.
I’ve witnessed multiple miracles this past year. Prayers prayed for 15 years have been answered. Dreams 15 years in the making have come true. I’ve watched God do things that only he can do. And yet, I still can’t let go. Can’t let go of the idea that I can do things better than him — that I can do things faster than him. When God veers off my well-constructed plan, I wonder if he’s maybe a little off his rocker as well.
When you’re packing up everything you own, putting it into storage and heading off into the great blue yonder, we’ve realized it’s better to do it quickly. Less time to think. Less time to wonder.
To tell you the truth, I’ve doubted that we’re doing the right thing — living as vagabonds for a year. When we first made the decision, the writing was clear on the wall. The kids were excited. We couldn’t believe this dream was coming true. We sat the kids down to make sure they were all on board. I read testimonies for a living — do you know how many people blame a move for the destructive path they chose? I’ve allowed outside voices to weigh me down with guilt. Your kids need stability. What will your kids do for friends? Won’t that be hard for your kids to leave everything they know behind? Our oldest daughter has struggled with this decision. She doesn’t want to leave her friends. I get it. I’ve spent 13 years trying to protect her from pain. I’ve spent 13 years sheltering her from the harsh reality of this world. Sure, she’s experienced sadness and hurt. Sure, she knows what loneliness and frustration feel like. But for the most part, I’ve protected her from everything that could hurt her.
And now I’m the one who’s doing the hurting. At least from her perspective, I’m the one who’s messing everything up for her life. The point of spending a year abroad was to draw our family closer together. And it has felt like it it’s unraveling at the seams. All my fears were coming to life right before my eyes. And all of my what-ifs were now becoming what now? Will she resent us? Will this crush her? Will this ruin my carefully laid plans for my family? If this was truly what God wanted for us, wouldn’t it be easier? Wouldn’t she be happy?
We went back and re-evaluated our motives. We prayed and cried out to God for answers. Would God lead our family on this adventure with one of us dragging her feet? I asked again and again for confirmation. Again and again it came. I asked God again and again for clarity in our vision for our family. Again and again he gave it to me.
But I still doubted. I wanted to know for sure that it would all work out. God, if we do this, will my family look the way I want it to? If we do this, will my kids end up the way I want them to? Again and again I cried out. And again and again no response came.
Like Jacob, wrestling with God, I fought hard. Do you know the story? The Jacob who had deceived and manipulated his way through life to get what he wanted. The Jacob who was so desperate for life to look the way he wanted, he betrayed his own brother and stole the first-born’s blessing. Now, that’s someone with control issues. We find Jacob in Genesis 32, running from one problem Now his brother was coming. Jacob hasn’t seen him face to face since that day. And he’s scared out of his mind. So he manipulated his circumstances. He placed his possessions, his animals and his family in places that would guarantee their safety. He wanted to make sure everything would be okay — make sure that everything would turn out the way he hoped.
And that’s where God found him. There in the dead of night. And they wrestled into the wee hours of the morning. And Jacob wouldn’t let go.
God said, “Let go.”
Jacob responded. “Not until you bless me.”
Jacob wanted to know the result of his letting go before he opened his hands. He wanted to make sure that he would get something better than what he was holding onto so desperately there against the velvet sky.
I’ve let go of a lot of things recently. God is continually prying my white-knucked fingers off my carefully laid plans for my life. Let go. Let go of my things. Let go of my security, my stability and my expectations. And some of it has been easy to let go of. The house? How refreshing to live without a mortgage for the next year. The furniture? I can buy more when we get back. The toys? Less to clean. The friends? I’ll miss them desperately. But we have social media, right?
But what about my family…wait, no. I thought I was giving up all that other stuff FOR my family. That’s asking too much, God. I’m doing this because of my family. Because I want more for my family. Which is why I don’t understand why one of my kids thinks I’m ruining her life. That’s not what was supposed to happen. That’s not the result I want.
So I grip a little tighter. I fight a little harder.
God said, “Let go.”
And I cried out, “Not until you bless me.”
Not until I know that everything is going to be okay. Not until I get a guarantee that what I’ll get in exchange for what I give up will be better.
And God whispered, Everything is okay. Not because you’re holding fast to your security, but because I’m holding fast to her.
“But God, she’s hurting. I don’t want her to hurt. I want to save her from this pain.”
And he spoke soft and gentle to my heart.
Melissa, when have you come to know me better? In the good? Or in the hard?
When have you known my hand of provision? In your plenty? Or in your need?
When have you known me as your healer? When you’ve got it all together? Or when you’re broken?
When have you known me as your strength, your source and your life? When you’re safe there on the shore? Or when I lead you out beyond the waves?
When have you discovered the riches of my presence? When you can see the way ahead? Or when your clutching my hand in the dark?
Stop trying to spare her from the pain of life. And teach her how to walk through it. She sees her small little world. You see my kingdom. Tell her what you see, and I’ll turn her face when she’s ready.
None of my scheming makes my family safe from pain. I can try to manipulate our circumstances in an attempt to keep them from ever experiencing hardship or need. I can protect them from knowing brokenness and keep their feet planted on the shore. I can shine my own feeble light to guide their steps so they never stumble in the dark. I can keep them safe. But is their safety what I want most for them? Well, if I’m honest, yes. I do. And I realize my responsibility as a mother to shield and protect my kids.
But how am I getting in the way of the transformation God is doing in their lives? How do my efforts to ensure their happiness hampers their discovery of God as their provider, healer, strength, source and life?
After all, isn’t it in the hard places where we discover we’re not alone.
It’s in our need that we witness the miracles.
It’s in our brokenness that we encounter a healing that mends our souls.
It’s out beyond the waves where we discover the courage to face our fears.
It’s in the darkness where we find the extraordinary riches of God’s presence.
It’s in the pain where we discover that God really is enough — and we are enough in him.
Do I have control issues? You betcha. But maybe it’s not so much about what I can and can’t control as it is about what I allow to control me. Will I let fear dictate my steps? Will I let outside voices determine my faith? Will I trust that God is enough — for me and my kids? Or will I step in and try to be God for them?
I’m not guaranteed that my kids stories will turn out the way I want. But I’m not the one writing their stories, as often as I try. But I’m going to walk forward believing that God is bigger than my fear. I don’t know how this will turn out for my daughter, but I know it’s okay. Everything is okay. I can let go because she’s already held–held in the arms of an extraordinary God who much better at writing stories than I am.
So, in six weeks we’re going to say good-bye. She will cry, and I will pull her close. She will ask why, and I will keep my eyes on the Author of both our stories, holding tight to his hand.
I will tell her what I see. And I will point her to the One who catches her tears in a bottle, walks with her through the fire, carries her through the storm, shines light in her darkness, and never, ever lets go.
Now, that’s extraordinary!