Control Freak

The moment school let out for summer we ushered our family of five straight to the beach in celebration of the best season of the year (as far as any school aged kid is concerned). We packed up the suitcases and headed even further south than we already reside to spend three fun-filled days in the sun, allowing our boys to do all the things that we usually say no to as parents. Stay up late? Yes! Chips, french fries, and lots and lots of ketchup for lunch? Why not?! Overpay for cheap souvenir shark-tooth necklaces? Sure! Chocolate milk for dinner? Of course! We threw our usual routine out the window to enjoy the simple pleasures that come with this season of life during this season of the year.

Last summer Chris bought an inflatable boat that the boys were wild about. It’s just big enough that the three of them can fit in together. They had been playing with it endlessly at home, so we brought it along to try out at the beach. Our oldest, who is a complete dare-devil when it comes to heights, is still unsure of the waves, so he sat in the sand and watched as I loaded up the two littles and tugged them out into ocean to give the boat a try. The water wasn’t even waste high on me and as the waves rolled in, tossing the boys gently, they were delighted. They laughed and squealed and asked for more. I pulled them out just far enough so that we got the best part of the wave, right past the break, where the current of the incoming wave lifts you up and then gently sets you right back down.

We had just gotten comfortable with the rhythm of the ocean when I heard a wave behind us gaining speed at a more forceful pace than the one before.  I turn to look, and then seconds before it happens, I realize that this wave is going to break right on top of us. The previous rhythm of the waves had given me no clue of what was coming. Things were fine and then all of sudden – out of nowhere – they were not.

I grab one boy tight with each arm and wait for the inevitable, because at this point that’s all I can do. The wave crashes down hard against me and the little boat capsizes. I hold as tight as I can to both those wiggly boys and we all go under. And for just one second, as the pressure of the water and the current and the chaos closes in on me, I lose a boy. I feel his slippery, sun-lotioned arm slip away from me under the water as I hold the other boy as tight as I can. Blind beneath the wave, I frantically reach-reach-reach with my one free hand just praying to God from the depths of my soul that I regain control.

And miraculously, I do.

While I am still blind and groping underwater with one squirming, panicking boy in my right hand, my left hand mercifully fumbles across a little leg somewhere beneath me and I grab hold of it as if my life depends upon it.

In a matter of maybe 30 seconds the whole thing begins and ends and we’re all accounted for and we’re fine and other than being a little wet and frightened no harm is done. Not wanting to scar my littles for life, I play it off pretty coolly. They trust me. They seem to realize that on some level, many things in the world that seem out of control and big and scary to them are quite manageable for their mom and dad, and they rest in that trust. They shake it off quickly and resumed their sea shell searching and sand digging in a matter of minutes.

I’m grateful for the perspective they have of my ability to handle things and manage things and make everything all right, but this time, their sense of security had no foundation. I had completely lost control. I might have fooled them with my “playing it cool” routine, but I couldn’t fool me. The story could have ended differently.

My husband consoled me, “But it didn’t. It didn’t end differently.” But the fear that gripped my heart was that it could have. Sometimes doing all you can do doesn’t even come close to being enough.

Do we fight God for control over our children?

That night the scene played in my head over and over again in my half-dream, half-wake state. I prayed in fits and starts the entire night.  “Father God, thank you for saving my babies.”  “Dear Lord, I’m so sorry I almost lost one of my babies.”  “God, you were there. Thank you for being there.”  “Oh God, how could I have let that happen? How did I allow something like that to get out of my control?” Out of my control.

Out of my control.

Those are the words that continued to resonate in my heart into the wee hours of the next morning. It’s not that I temporarily allowed that one situation escape my control, it was God, awakening my heart to the truth that none of it was – none of it has ever been – in my control.

That thought terrifies me.

I have somehow convinced myself that so much depends on me keeping control. By controlling things I can prevent that dreaded accident. By controlling things I can protect their hearts. By controlling things I can keep them safe and near and happy. It may reek of selfishness, but the control I long for is not for my benefit, but for theirs (this is what I tell myself). After all, who knows what they need better than their mama?

Us mamas, we love our control, don’t we?  I have gone to bed many a night exhausted from the feeling that all I did all day was fight for control. And the rock-bottom truth of it is, I’m not fighting my kids or my husband. I’m fighting God.

I might have resigned the good and well-being of my own soul over to Him, but now I have to resign the good and well-being of my children over to Him as well.

And I don’t want to lose that control.

The truth of that statement strikes such a chord in my heart that I cry as I write this.

After the loving and gentle care that He has given me, how on earth could I even fathom withholding them from Him? Has he ever withheld grace when I needed it? Or love? Or provision? What does he have that I have not inherited? Yet despite these indisputable truths, somewhere deep within my sin-stained heart, I sometimes believe that I can love them more perfectly than He can.

Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Oh, mamas, that we would dare to lose control. That we would fully buy in to His love for our loves. That we would loosen our grips on them so that they could more clearly see Him. That we would stop fighting for the type of control that could one day burden us to death.  I’m praying for the type of faith that dares to lose control.  

And like the father of the boy who Jesus compassionately made well, I will cling to my Lord and cry “I do believe;  Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), as I hand over my boys to His capable hands.


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*Originally posted July 9, 2014 at