I’ve never considered myself a “control freak.”
I mean, the idea of change propels me into full-blown panic, complete with suffocating throat constriction, vomit-inducing knots, and heart palpitations that are convincingly heart-attack-ish….
And I will analyze a situation like Einstein analyzed relativity. It will keep me up at night. It will haunt my imaginations. It will loom over my mind for every moment of every hour… It will fill every shred of scrap paper within arm’s reach with scribbles depicting the pros and cons. I will live and breathe the fears and consequences, the potential outcomes, the wins and losses and the conundrums of every direction.
I will be consumed.
Until I’m done analyzing.
Then… I will know precisely what needs to be done and I will be steadfastly convinced that any deviation will lead to catastrophe…
So yeah… maybe I’m a bit of a control freak.
I mean, I’d prefer a gentle euphemism, like, “rational”.
But when the rubber meets the road… the truth is… I just don’t handle uncertainty well.
So when Mark recently mentioned the prospect of another change in our lives… after a grand series of them… I gave him my support… but deep inside… I was freaking out a little. It’s my place, as a wife, to follow him; to allow him to lead. I’ve never been one to dig in my heels and insist things go a certain way. Typically, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and jump with him. So… like usual, I just did my best to conceal my anxieties, gave him assurance that I’d support him, calmly expressed my concerns, and then… left the decision-making with him.
But inwardly…. Inwardly…. I was hyperventilating. I wanted spreadsheets, three years and a census before another word was mentioned. My mind raced with worst-case scenarios. In 0.3 seconds, we were poverty-stricken and selling the furniture to pay electric bills, wearing rags, and surviving on a meager supply of rice and beans.
So… yeah… things can get pretty dramatic in this brain of mine… but… for real…
CHANGE. IS. SCARY.
The thing is, I just want things to be predictable. I want things to go the way that makes the most sense. I want to play it safe. I want things to be steady… and comfortable. I’m the kind of girl that is wired to thrive in one place, with one people, one mission… Give me security, and you will get a powerhouse. Give me “unpredictable” and you will get a quivering heap of anxiety that can barely muster courage to get out of bed in the morning.
But sometimes I’ve wondered… if maybe God is trying to teach me how to thrive when things aren’t predictable and safe.
Could it be?
I laugh now, when I think about an exchange we had in pre-marital counseling, just days before our wedding. The preacher asked, “What is one thing Mark should know about you before you get married?”
“I do not do well with sudden, dramatic upheavals to my life. I need significant warning to prepare my mind for change.”
It’s a little comical to me, that from the moment I said “I do”, my life went so topsy-turvy, whirlwind on me, that “sudden, dramatic upheaval” could totally be the theme of our lives together. Life with Mark is full of surprises. Changes with no warnings, moves with no plan. Nothing was gradual, or cautious, or smooth… We were swinging from one side of the country to the other, like Tarzan and Jane in a Camry. Mark’s all about the adventure, and his adventures are often abrupt, spontaneous and jarring. So…. once that marriage certificate was signed, my life spun out of my control and even though Mark has done great to understand and meet my needs, and he’s gone all out to make me feel comfortable and secure… just the tiniest prospect of change can still bring a flattening wave of anxiety to my heart.
And that lack of control? It really has turned me into a bit of a control-freak.
Not with people… but with God.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa God…. What are You doing? Um… that’s supposed to go like THIS!”
“Hold up! Why is that piece there? No, No, No, No, N-n-n-n-n-n-n-nooooooo…. That piece goes HERE! Because see…. If that piece is THERE… this, this and that could happen…. And that would be catastrophic! Let’s just stick with the plan, shall we?”
I’m gonna be real with you… Sometimes, I’m terrified to relinquish the outcome of all the things I love and care about to His care.
Sometimes I find myself at the altar, not praying….but thinking.
Mulling over details. Analyzing outcomes. Piecing together a consequential chain of events.
Instead of laying the future in His hands, I’m rushing in and ripping it out of them. Ambushing His purposes and shutting down His whole process because I can’t predict what He will do.
But… I’m starting to realize that it’s kind of the whole point.
He’s got some big, beautiful plan up His sleeve, and I’ll find out what it is if I just trust Him… but because I can’t… well… let’s just throw it all in the garbage right?
Life was the same for over a decade. I had one goal. One purpose. One schedule. One group of people that I loved and worked beside. Nothing much changed in that chapter of my life. God pulled me out of a chaotic, unstable environment, and planted me in this safe, secure greenhouse, where I could shoot up and thrive and blossom…
And God knew that was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. He knew, that in order to show me I could thrive, I needed that stability.
My last 5 years though…. they’ve been marked with change. Not little changes… but drastic changes. Huge, foundational things were shifting on me left and right. I would fixate on a path and situate my mind to follow it, and then… BAM! Different. Mark’s been a student, a pizza delivery guy, a restaurant manager, a teacher and a banker and I’ve had to learn how to support every role. Incomes have fluctuated all over the place. I’ve endured health challenges that completely altered the dynamic of our lives. I’ve lived through, and recovered from a stroke and had to learn how to live with some permanent changes that have affected my brain. We’ve lived in trailers, apartments, parsonages, and now our own home. We’ve lived in different cultures, and had to make new friends. I’ve had to learn how to adapt in every area of my life.
I’ve had to learn how to be flexible… in giant, life-altering ways.
But God knew that was what I needed in this time of my life. He knew that I needed to learn that it wasn’t the stable, secure environment that made me thrive…
It was Him.
I want to cry when I think about those early years…
Change crippled me.
I loved and adored our life together, but I followed Mark from home to home, job to job, a little bit weaker each time. It was like my broken soul was being carried from one change to the next on a stretcher. I battled depression, nightmares, and panic-attacks. And no matter how hard I tried to recover… I just couldn’t. As soon as I felt like I was making progress… something else changed. It was like trying to rebuild while an earthquake was decimating everything around me.
Sometimes… it takes a long time for us to get the picture… and then, when we finally do, it thumps us right between the eyes like a 10 pound brick. My heart is overwhelmed, realizing that God was trying to show me for so long… that I don’t need a certain place to shoot out of the ground and blossom. I don’t need a specific group of people, or a special one-track goal… I don’t need to be poor or rich… I don’t need to live meagerly in a trailer, or comfortably in a home. It doesn’t matter if I’m a Pastor’s wife or a stay-at-home Mama… it doesn’t matter if Mark is scraping by on delivery tips, or thriving on quarterly bonuses. My strength is not going to break forth out of a state, or a home, or a certain ministry, or under a certain Pastor, or with a certain title… My fortitude will not be determined by our level of income, or my latest role, or the friends I make, or what groups I am a part of.
He’s been trying to show me… that my strength will come from Him.
He’s been trying to teach me that I will be MIGHTY regardless of houses or jobs… if I am rooted and grounded in Him, and Him alone.
He wants me to know that with Him as my unchanging, unfailing Foundation, Rock, and Fortress… That whatever task He gives me, in whatever state, in whatever role, with whatever resources, surrounded by whatever people….
Wherever He puts me
I will flourish.
I get that now.
I get it.
I got a little banged up and bruised along the way, but I get it.
I can’t say that knowing this makes me all “honky-dory” about whatever change I sense looming on the wind… I still get jittery, and nervous, and start to analyze…
But I step out the door a little stronger now.
I flinch a little less.
When it comes time to surrender something…
It’s a little easier.
Because I know He is secure.
And if it looks like everything is crumbling into ashes…
It just means, that God’s not done.
Because God’s story?
It never ends in ashes.