You can usually tell what I think about a book by its appearance after I’ve read it.
Turned-down-corners and underlining is the litmus test.
The irony is, that her whole book is about opening up our tightly clenched fists, as we gently place our tendency to be controlling back into the outstretched hands of our loving God.
And the time in my life, when I felt most out-of-control was during the years of our adoptions.
Now, in general, I don’t consider myself overly controlling…
But what I realized as I read this book, is that I definitely have a bit of “control-freak” wired into me.
My garage tubs and holiday Rubbermaids are all labeled.
Every child has a toothbrush holder in the bathroom that is in line according to their age (as are the towel bars).
Each family member has their own labeled clean-laundry-bin.
And I have systems for most everything (shoes, mail, bills, chores, pets, groceries, calendars…even my seasonal-rotating-candy-dispensers).
Most of that is simply because we have busy lives, and lots of little kids, and I find freedom in having some sort of plan for staying organized so that I don’t waste endless hours looking for Lydia’s pink sparkle shoes when we are trying to head out the door.
That said– I’m pretty generous with taking on messes and I love letting the kids collect things, build things, create things and invite over a household of busy-little-people-things.
Our house is used.
I try hard to be a “yes” mom.
And our mini van, with its stale-french-fry-cranberry-cracker-filled-cup-holders,
would probably make you think, I need more control.
But, as I read through this book, I started seeing areas of my life where I very much cling to the facade of “being in control”.
And when I can’t maintain that illusion of control, the result is…
Which I still do struggle with quite often.
I felt this deeply during our adoptions.
Because it was one period of time where beyond meeting all of the necessary requirements, there was absolutely nothing I could do to speed up or ensure a positive outcome in our adoptions.
And that feeling of being out-of-control–
It was (and is) really difficult for me.
Because I like it when there is something I can–
Do, or fix, or supply, or do, or create, or change or…
It was the same for me when our Selah was so sick and even more-so when she died.
Again…absolutely no way I could push-through-pound-it-out-make-it-happen to change the circumstances.
Her life was completely out of my control.
And it felt scary.
I appreciate Karen’s book because she clearly explains that relinquishing control of our lives does not mean we become apathetic.
We are still active and we still do whatever we can do to make the best choices and live life in a way that aligns with God’s Word,
But it’s more of a call to face reality…
That there is much in life that is completely beyond our control and we all have to wrestle with whether or not we really:
~believe in God.
~trust who He is.
~have confidence that all things in this world fall under the control of His unchanging, unwavering presence and power.
“The difference is Christ in me.
Not me in a different set of circumstances.”
Let. It. Go. is really a call to contentment.
But along the journey, Karen uses practical, sometimes hilarious, and often-very-personal examples to shine a spotlight on the many ways we attempt to hold on tightly to the illusion of control.
For me personally, several sections pierced my heart:
~how, as wives, we often use subtle manipulation to control our husbands.
~how, as moms, we often try to “fix” struggles for our children as a way of controlling their circumstances.
~how comparison can become a controlling force in our lives.
~how our own schedules and need to be/seem busy can control us.
Beyond all that, I just felt like God wanted me to read this book.
Within the first few chapters Karen shared about her middle child’s struggle with dyslexia.
So much of what she wrote was an echo of our family’s experience as we tried to understand and appreciate our daughter’s dyslexia.
And then near the end of the book, Karen included a whole section on Psalm 62, which is probably the psalm closest to my heart because the first time I really read it was when we were up at the hospital with Selah, wrestling through the lack-of-control we had over her disease.
Karen commented– “What a perfect psalm for us to cling to as an anchor when we feel that situations are beyond our control!”
That section led into one of my favorite parts of the whole book,
About how God desires to transform our idol of control into a beautiful ability to live with soul control.
“Soul control is when we speak God’s truth to ourselves.
Soul control is when we recognize that life isn’t fair–that others who seem evil prosper, while the righteous seem to flail about.
Soul control is when we pause to remember our place. And God’s.
Soul control is learning to idle our brains before we engage our mouths, thereby saving ourselves a boatload of heartache, wounded relationships, and regret.
Soul control is when we stop–sometimes midsentence–and realign our thinking and resulting actions with God’s Word.
Soul control is when we finally realize that it is only God who has the sole control over the universe. We do not.” (pg. 181)
I also really appreciated Chapter 11– Living the Relinquished Life.
Karen writes that she was “ready to experience the thrill of being out of control” (201).
That she “decided there were benefits to being out of control” (204).
And that she “finally felt the thrill of living relinquished instead of living tightfisted all the time” (205).
After our daughter Selah died, I remember thinking…
Now we have three towel racks and we only have three towels.
There is one towel rack for each child’s towel.
Orderly. Practical. Plan-able. Controlled.
The thought wasn’t a comfort, but a constant, searing pain in my heart.
A little too neat.
A little too tidy.
A reminder of how much I missed the little one who had filled our life to overflowing.
A reminder of how beautiful it was to live in that place of overflow,
Where clinging to Him came with every breath.
He stretched us through adoption, but all the while, we knew He was in control.
I loved living in that place of relinquishment.
God’s plans don’t always follow the road map I’ve sketched out.
And they don’t even always follow the most logical route.
I want to expect the unexpected, to give up my need for control.
I want to wait on His leading for what may come around the next corner.
Only when I acknowledge that:
~this life is messy.
~it often doesn’t go as I’ve planned.
~relationships will disappoint.
~there will be struggles.
~and I rarely even meet my own expectations…
Will I cling to God, abide in Him, and call out my need to Him daily.
I will say:
…apart from You, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
And only then–-
When I relinquish control and
Let. It. Go.
Will I find true strength.
And only then– will I be ready for His adventure!
I’ve shared before about how I want–
Faith that Walks.
I will reach for the fringe of His garment.
With grasping faith.
The giver of Faith.
What about you?
As Karen asks…
“Will you loosen your grip on life and grab tightly to the edge of His garment?”
Make sure you don’t miss the other posts from this series:
And Then He Told Me That I’m Adopted (our adoption stories)
The Most Important Question You Can Ask About Adoption
Helpful Adoption Resources
Seven Reasons That We Love Adoption (and why I think of it every Day-Before-Thanksgiving
Karen Ehman is the Director of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and the author of six books. Her passion is to provide practical inspiration and biblical encouragement to help women live their priorities and love their lives. She’s been a guest on The 700 Club, Moody Midday Connection and Focus on the Family. She and her college sweetheart Todd are raising their three kids in the boondocks of central Michigan. Connect with her at karenehman.com